Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday, July 16th

Wednesday morning we woke up and headed out for our Loch Ness tour, but first, to lock our luggage in the train station, so we didn't have to lug it all around all day! Now, in fear of being too late, we probably over-compensated, but as it turned out, it was fine because when the taxi driver let us off at the cruise place, he told us about this hotel/restaurant directly across the street where we could have breakfast. We had a very nice breakfast - I tried marmite, I'd heard about it before but wondered what it was, (sort of like I've heard of the Austrailian's veggie-mite) and I do not recommend it - BLAH!

When we left breakfast to cross the street and get to the boat, it had started raining. This was the only down side, in my book, to our not getting to go on Tuesday's cruise, the weather would have been fine on Tuesday... but we were told that the weather today was more "authentic" so... And the rain didn't last, it was very breezy, although some or all of that may have been our speed in moving on the water, I don't know. On Facebook, you can see the pic of my hair standing totally up on end, due to the wind. We did not see Nessie, she may have been sleeping in, or even on vacation.. who knows!? She might be in the Pacific Northwest looking for Bigfoot! But we did see some fantastic scenery, and a castle or two, the mountains.. I'm incapable of finding the words for the beautiful scenery we've seen on this trip.

The trip took us down the Ness Canal, to the Loch, and lasted about 1:45, and they then let a lot of people off the boat because they were going to tour the castle and then bus it back to town, so we were able to nab decent seats (all the good ones having already been nabbed when we first got on), for the return trip. For the return, the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to contemplate eeking out. It was a lovely ride back. It was even nice enough that at one point, Holly and Tom upstairs to ride on the upper deck.

After disembarking, we caught the bus back to town and had a nice lunch at, you guessed it... another pub!, before catching our train south to Edinburgh. That's where I am at the moment, I've been taking advantage of the free wifi to catch up on the blog. Watching the guy in the seat catty-cornered from me downing four (count them, 4) huge beers in about an hour and a half, then when he got off the train, the slug left all of his empties! Holly and Tom have been playing musical chairs and when I'm not typing, I'm looking out the window at the scenery. The sun, by the way, decided to come south with us and the skies are painfully blue with lots of fluffy clouds.

This may be the last "on the road" blog as the wifi may be iffy between now and Saturday. But here's the plan: We'll be arriving at Edinburgh about 7:30pm. We'll get a taxi to our dorm - we'll be staying in the same place, or thereabouts, as we stayed the last time when we were stuck in Scotland post my appendectomy - and then investigate the dinner options. Tomorrow will be our only day in Edinburgh and there is the Castle and the Holyrood Palace which are two musts.. there may be a hop on/off bus tour, don't know, but that would be nice, as you get commentary during the trip so you know what you're driving past. Either that or Holly is well acquainted with the bus system here and we may just get an all-day pass (3 pounds 20) and motor around that way.

Friday, we'll be getting up and taxiing it to the airport for our flight back to Indianapolis. The flight leaves around noon, if I recall correctly, and we'll be landing about 11pm in Indy. We'll probably be mostly dead, so we'll pass out at Chez Burns and in the morning, I'll head home... hitting a McDonald's first, for some ICED TEA!!!

Thanks to all who have enjoyed our journey with us. I'm sorry I couldn't include photos in the blog, hopefully you've been able to follow along with the pics posted on Facebook.

Until next time,... :)

Tuesday, July 15th

The entry for Tuesday may be brief, instead of several small places to go and see, we had just a couple of big ones, so...

We slept in, had a leisurely breakfast at the cafe at the bus station - sounds worse than it was. I had a steak sleeve (or something like that) and it was this very tasty roast beef all cut up, in gravy, cooked in a delicious flaky pastry... two thumbs up! - and caught a bus to Culloden Battlefield. Unfortunately, the bus we caught was going to Culloden the town, rather than the battlefield... so the driver dropped us off and told us to wait, because the bus we needed would be coming by and we could take it to the battlefield.

So we waited for the bus... and waited.. while we wait, let me point out that Tuesday was St. Swithen's Day - I got this info from the UK edition of USA Today (does that make sense??) - and tradition goes that if it rains on St. Swithen's Day, it will rain for the next 40 days! So we were keeping an eye out for rain that day 'cause we did not want guaranteed rain for the next three days (as long as we'd be here :).

Anyway, the bus came and we rode to Culloden Battlefield. Culloden was the last battle fought in the British Isles. It was the battle where the Jacobites (people who thought that James the Something should be on the throne rather than George I (either the father or grandfather of the George who lost the American Revolution) fought to replace George with Bonny Prince Charlie (James' son). Lest I bore you, let me just say that they lost big, and thousands were slaughtered in about an hour and George Something was on the throne in 1776. We only had about an hour to tour the place, so we couldn't see the battle re-enactment or take the guided tour of the battleground, but I got a really cute apron covered with cartoon cats wearing tartan on it in the gift shop!

The plan for the afternoon was to take the bus back to the bus station and catch a bus to the place where we were going to catch the boat for our cruise around Loch Ness. Unfortunately, all that waiting for the bus two paragraphs ago threw a wrench in our works and we didn't make it in time. Tom was able to convince the lady behind the desk to switch our tickets to the 10 am cruise the next morning - he said that the words "Stupid Americans" were heard... So not only were we free for the afternoon, but we'd be taking a later train on Wednesday to Edinburgh.

How did we spend our free time? Well, like all good Americans, we hit the mall! :) Ok, well first we hit a Victorian Market (I found a Scottish flag for Gnarley and Holly found a nice chocolate shoppe!) But then we hit the mall.. mostly because it was someplace we could sit and kill some time before dinner - but Holly took advantage of the opportunity to find herself some sparkly sunglasses to replace those she'd lost back in Dublin on day one (she'd since been using my extra pair).

We had dinner at a local pub and then bussed it back to the hotel and relaxed, watching Romancing the Stone before hitting the sheets. Tomorrow... Loch Ness!

Monday, July 14th

The plan for Monday was to take the train to Inverness and we discovered that we could catch a train at 7:10 in the morning, getting us there about 11-ish. We made it... I can't say we were happy or perky about it, but we got on the train and started traveling north. The scenery was beautiful and there were even pockets of snow in the mountains! At least we're pretty sure that's what they were - don't know what else it could have been. We saw a lot of green hills, trees, fluffy sheep and cows. Very lovely.

Once in Inverness, we nabbed a taxi to take us to our hotel, again too early to check in, but we wanted to dump the luggage. I never realized that hotels would do this, but it's nice to know. We got directions to the nearest bus stop and trekked out. First, food! There was this restaurant that advertised "All American Food" - I'm not sure that it was honesty in advertising, but it hit the spot. Next, we found the hop on/off bus tour and took a jaunt around the city. It was raining, but we all had our umbrellas, so it was all good.

Our first stop was the castle - very picturesque, on top of a hill, looking over the city. Unfortunately, it is currently in use as a courthouse, so there was no going in, no tour. We got nice pics and then went down the hill to the info center. I hit the gift shop while Holly got the bus schedules interpreted.

We then roamed the city, hitting a cathedral, walking over the bridge over the river (which may or may not have been the River Ness - I don't have the map handy), and we walked on the bouncy bridge (which when you walk on it, it feels like it's bouncing, rather creepy if you ask me.) On our way back to somewhere, (I don't know where - Inverness really screwed with my internal GPS, which isn't all that great to begin with - I never knew where we were!) we discovered this old church, build in 1148 and some nice ladies talked to us about it while my footies rested and Holly and Tom looked around. A beautiful church and the ladies were so friendly to chat with.

Then again, while continuing on our wandering, we discovered this used bookstore/cafe in another old church building. We had time to kill so we went in for some light browsing and maybe a nosh! We all found something to read, got something to eat, and sat and rested out of the rain before discussing our plans for the rest of the evening. Tom wanted to hit a whisky tasting at a whisky store so Holly and I took a cab back to the hotel, rested and read our books until a James Bond movie came on TV. When Tom arrived back at the hotel, he told us that after the tasting, he discovered the bus he needed wouldn't be around for another hour so he popped into a pub that was having a trivia night. He joined a team in need of a fourth and using his prowess in esoteric American crappy movies, helped them win!

We turned in... it was a short day, but we needed the rest.

Sunday, July 13th

We woke up in the Castle - it was so cool! We had a really nice room, with a closet that held a toilet, and our own bathroom, across the hall. Having left my brain at home, it took me forever to figure out how to use the shower. I swear, each shower mechanism is different! After par-boiling my body, then freezing it to sub-zero temps, I finally got it figured out and had a nice shower. I really liked the shower gel in the shower, but I don't have room in my suitcase to smuggle any home, so it'll have to be a fond memory.

Breakfast was an incredible spread. There were five us there eating: me, Holly & Tom, and the couple from Canada who were staying in the other room. He was a big Colts fan so he and Tom hit it off real quickly! There was so much food on this tiny table, and I swear, the hostess kept bringing more out! The owners were a couple from the Czechoslovakia area and he said that when they saw the view from the battlements, he knew he was moving to Scotland! I can see why, the view was very nice - it was of the River Clyde. After breakfast, we all traipsed upstairs for the view and pictures!

We also got to hear about the ghost of the castle. If I recall correctly, she lived in the castle years ago and she was just mean and nasty and killed the townspeople for sport... and either she was tried and sentenced to starve in the castle OR her husband came home from wherever, found out what she'd been up to, and killed her. Either way, she didn't wake us up. If she attempted, she was destined for disappointment.

Unfortunately, it was time for us to leave the castle. It was a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live in a castle. Too many steps, for one, and the cable reception wasn't all that! We got a taxi to the train station and rode back to Glasgow. It was about noon when we arrived, we found our bed and breakfast and, even though it was too early to check-in, left our luggage there so we could catch a bus to see some sights. As luck would have it, the hop on/off bus stopped just around the corner from the B&B. We rode around the city, the entire tour taking almost two hours, and made a mental note of the highlights we wanted to hit. The city of Glasgow is preparing for thew Commonwealth Games - which is like the PanAm Games, only for just the 60-ish countries in the British Commonwealth, and it is every four years - so some of the areas of the tour were blocked off from us. I'm not sure they were places we were desperate to see, but they might have been nice to see.

But before we could hit any of them, we had to wee, so we hopped off at this ginormous museum, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. While we were there, we looked around a bit. It was a very nice and we could have spent a lot longer there! Before we left, though, we did hit the gift shop where I found the most adorable Scottish rubber ducky which, as the only way you can see my pics at the moment are on Facebook, you may have already seen. He's too cute!

After the Museum, we got back on a bus and made our way to the cathedral and necropolis (cemetery). Tom wanted to hit a tour of the Tennant brewery which was conveniently located at the very next bus stop, so Holly and I hit the cathedral while Tom headed down to his tour. The cathedral was beautiful and we took pics. Then we trotted over to the cemetery and took pics. But it was huge and wound its way up this hill that we didn't have time (or in my feet's case, the interest) to climb, so we headed down the hill to search for Tom. Turns out his brewery tour doesn't operate on Sunday, but he found a micro-brewery where he could hang for a while.

We hopped on the bus and started around the city again, until we could alight at a stop near our B&B. We had just enough time to catch some dinner before going back and officially moving into our room in time for the World Cup game. I took a shower, checked my email and went to sleep. The last thing I recall being the impression that someone scored.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dear Tom Responds - Irish Edition

First, let me say what an honor it is to be posted on your blog. I'm published worldwide in 50+ newspapers (a la Dear Abby), but this is my first adventure into Al Gore's World Wide Web.

1) What was that music playing in that church in the gift shop across from the mummified rat and cat?
Uncle Albert (Einstein) and I were discussing music over cigars one day and he questioned whether Bach or Chopin would be better mood music for cryptologist tours. I laughed in his mustachioed face and told him the ONLY music applicable to such underground pursuits was Toccata and Fugue. He heartily agreed and on page 42, section B, subpart 2.c. of his famous relativity declared it official for EVERY church basement gift shop. The only flexibility is they are permitted to pick the key in which it's played. Since aforementioned feline and vermin were in the vicinity, it was obviously T&F in R sharp.

2) What is the meaning of those road signs with honeycombs on them?
What looks like a honeycomb on a stick is actually a windsock and tells the driver it is an area that historically is very windy (i.e. be careful so you don't blow off the road, not that you could probably do anything about it anyway, but at least you were warned).

3) Why is Molly Malone's statue showing so much cleavage?
Molly Malone is a real woman who lived in the 1700s in Dublin. She is famous for selling fruits and vegetables from a cart, and entertaining people with her singing. The statue wanted to emphasize how much property she owned, i.e., her huuuuuge tracts of land.

4) Why did England and Ireland decide to drive on the wrong side of the road when the rest of the entire world drives on the right side of the road (in both senses of the word)?
The days of taking over other countries to get their booty and bounty are over (except in Somalia and the Middle East, but that's a discussion for another day). The U.K. is stuck on an island and can't really take over any other country except France and they don't want those turkeys anyway. So, the British ingeniously became good at insuring things (you've heard of Lloyds of London, right?). They decided the best way to make money was to confound 'normal' drivers and then charge them exorbitant insurance fees knowing their home country's insurance wouldn't cover them driving over there. Dear Tom has been there, and got the shirt, although I am a professional chauffeur and bag handler.

5) Why do they not serve iced tea anywhere in the British Isles and/or Ireland?
The recipe for ice was lost in every European country during the sieges of WWII and they are still researching and perfecting it. Right now they are focusing their efforts on whiskey and beer, and both are better at 'basement' ice required. Therefore, when requesting iced tea (or iced ANYTHING), expect either a raised eyebrow (U.K.) or a snarl and a 'look down the nose' (France). BTW, don't get me started on putting ketchup on everything.....

6) Why does it seem that the only veggies served in Ireland are potatoes and cabbage?
The Irish people have two physical states....drunk or hungover. Very colorful things hurt their eyes and therefore they prefer everything to be in muted tones, including their food.

7) What's up with the mushy peas served with fish and chips (which are curiously tasty)?
Fresh peas are very bright green (see answer to #6), so they need to tone it down. The cooks are either drunk or hungover (see answer to #6) so they cook and mash the crap out of them to take out their frustrations over the bright color. To make they palatable, they add butter and a little sugar....this takes out the color, too.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Saturday, July 12th

Today was mostly a travel day - getting from Belfast, Ireland to Scotland - so this will be a rather short blog entry, but with a pleasing surprise at the end.

We breakfasted at the hotel in Belfast and then took a taxi to the docks. Our plan was to take the ferry (only 29 pounds) over to Cairnryan, Scotland and then figure out how to find the train station from there. We figured God would get us where we need to go. Turns out there is no train station in Cairnryan, the nearest is in Ayr. But fortunately, the ferry company sells "Sail and Rail" tickets that is a ferry/bus to train/train combo ticket. We already had our rail passes, so we just needed the bus to the train and that worked out perfectly.

The only other ferry I'd ever been on was that day we were driving to the Cliffs of Moher, so I was expecting something like that, but this ferry was BIG - it had several restaurants, was at least 8 decks, there were entire tour buses on it! And the ride was smooth, really didn't even notice we were moving unless I looked out the window. The ferry ride was about 2 1/2 hours and then we were in Scotland! We got on our bus and took the 30 or so minute ride in to Ayr. On the way, we saw what I would consider to be stereotypical quaint English villages and countryside - and of course all of my experience in this topic is from TV.

In Ayr, we were deposited at the rail station - after a humorous interaction with the ticket counter people, we found our train and boarded it to Glasgow. I should point out that it was at this time that I realized that it was Glasgow and not Glascow... I apologize to my Scottish ancestors. This also explained to me why the weather app on my phone did not recognize the city I was typing into it. I should point out that there are MANY Glascows in the US.

The train to Glasgow was almost empty and very nice. We ate the "crispy digestive biscuits" that were in Holly and Tom's hotel room the previous night (my room had shortbread biscuits) as a wee snack and took advantage of the semi-working wifi on the train.

At the Glasgow Central station, we hopped off to wee, eat, and find our connecting train to Gourock - in that order. There was a "Beer Hotel" in the station where we knocked off the first two. Tom had his first taste of haggis and we all tried Beer Rarebit for the first time - again, when in Rome. After dinner, we found our train to Gourock. Why? you ask... Well, remember my dream of spending a night in a castle? Well, tonight is the night! We had reserved the master bedroom at Castle Levan - a restored castle, turned B&B. At Gourock, we caught at taxi to the Castle and spoke a little with the driver - Tom discovered that while yes, they are technically speaking English, it might as well be a foreign language what with the accent and the speed at which they spew forth. On the drive to the castle, I had fears of it being some rundown rat trap, but it's really rather nice, and the bed that Holly and I slept on had silk sheets - so just a note for my letter to Santa, from here on in it's silk sheets - can't recommend them more highly. I bet the cats would like them too.

It rained the entire day and even though we'd ridden most of the day, we were ready to spread out and relax, so after a short tour of the castle by the "Lady" of the manor, we adjourned to our room and got into our pjs, watched Ghostbusters on TV then it was bed time, for Rose at least.

Of all the possible modes of transportation, we covered taxi, ferry, bus, train, taxi, and foot today. Tomorrow, on to Glasgow!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dear Tom - Irish Edition

(Previous readers of this blog know that in the past know that my brother-in-law knows all... or makes it up... so as our party leaves Ireland, we have the Dear Tom - Irish Edition).

Dear Tom:

1) What was that music playing in that church in the gift shop across from the mummified rat and cat?

2) What is the meaning of those road signs with honeycombs on them?

3) Why is Molly Malone's statue showing so much cleavage?

4) Why did England and Ireland decide to drive on the wrong side of the road when the rest of the entire world drives on the right side of the road (in both senses of the word)?

5) Why do they not serve iced tea anywhere in the British Isles and/or Ireland?

6) Why does it seem that the only veggies served in Ireland are potatoes and cabbage?

7) What's up with the mushy peas served with fish and chips (which are curiously tasty)?

Friday, July 11th

We set off early today for Northern Ireland. Having grown up in the 70's, Northern Ireland is irrevocably tied with bombings and religious strife in my mind. After all of my education this week on Irish politics, we've learned that it was more political than religious, it only "conveniently" seemed to fall along religious lines.

We left before our "breakfast" was served at the hovel, so as we drove north, we stopped at what would be considered a truck stop and gassed up, pottied, and had breakfast of bananas and yogurt (and my now ubiquitous black current juice!) For those of you who are regular readers, you'll be interested to know that I've gleefully turned on my international data to "drop a bomb" on my Places I've Pooped app all around Ireland! tee hee!

Since the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are totally different countries, I assumed we'd have a border to go through. But no, well... frankly, I seem to have slept through it, but Bill, who was driving at the time, said all there was was a "Welcome to Northern Ireland" sign and the road signs started looking different. So much for getting another stamp in my passport.

At this point, I have to digress into a vague bit of a history lesson, because otherwise, when I say that we could not have chosen a worse day to be in Northern Ireland, it won't mean anything. Seems that way back in 1690 on July 12th, when Catholic/English King James was on the throne, Protestant William of Orange decided to invade (then) Ireland and his supporters in Ireland lit these big-assed bonfires to help show him where to go. William of Orange defeated James. Now, every year, at midnight on July 11th, the loyalists light big-assed bonfires around the city to celebrate July 12 and remember this event. As far as its effect on us, well, Friday was a bank holiday, meaning that some places were closed or had reduced hours; the wall that they've built going through the city to separate the catholics from the protestants gets closed earlier than usual, effectively blocking us out from our hotel, if we hang around too long in the wrong side; lots of drinking, and potential for "trouble."

After making sure where the hotel was (yes, thank God it was a hotel!!), we drove into the city and found a hop-on/off tour bus. The tour guide, Steven, was entertaining and knowledgeable. The plan was to drive the loop, see which sites we wanted to see, then ride the loop again getting off to see those sites. We got off at the Belfast Castle, which on the outside was beautiful, but on the inside was rather unimpressive - mostly decorated for its current use as a wedding location/banquet-type place - we got our money's worth, though - it was free to roam around! The gardens were beautiful and there were nine cats, in one form or another, hidden around the garden. The story being that the original owner who built it, was a gambler and he had a white cat that he considered to be is good luck charm. When the cat died, his luck ran out and he lost the family fortune, even having to move back home to England. So the castle was turned over to the government and when they were setting up the garden, someone got the idea to include 9 cats, to represent a cat's nine lives, in it. There were several stone sculptures, a topiary, some mosaics. We found them all and felt very successful.

The bus showed up shortly after we finished and we hopped back on. Turned out we'd got the bus with Steven on it again. Holly interrogated him about his thoughts on our plans to get off to see a cathedral, then something else, and he said due to the holiday, this bus was going back to the HQ and it was the last bus. In fact, they were closing the gates in the wall and we even had to go a different, more circuitous route back because the normal gate was already closed! He encouraged us to go back to our hotel and lock up for the night. Not that there was anything bad expected, but when alcohol and the Irish temperament mix.... We decided to follow his suggestion. So anyway, that's why we don't have an abundance of pictures of Belfast and Northern Ireland.

Back at the hotel, we had a wonderful meal and then had to say goodbye to Bill. Bill was only able to join us for the Ireland portion of this trip and was driving the rental back to Dublin and then flying back to the US on Saturday morning. Personally, I'm going to miss him because either out of deference to my knee or just because he's a gentleman, he carried my suitcase for me a lot... especially up stairs! Ah, Bill, you are missed.

I had my own room for the night and after taking a nice cool shower, I took advantage of the other twin bed in the room and dumped my suitcase out and repacked everything, doing a second purge of things I don't HAVE to take back with me. Having bought a jacket and a sweatshirt, my suitcase is getting very full. During the purge, I watched a Fresh Prince of Bel Air marathon since I couldn't find that documentary about the history of cheese that the Griswolds watched while in London during European Vacation... and after the purge, I found the British version of Big Brother... and watched that until my eyeballs fell to sleepytime.

Thursday, July 10th

Knowing that today's plan was just to return to Dublin, with nothing specific site-wise to do, we were able to sleep in and take a leisurely drive across the country. The drive was uneventful, on nice wide highways, and I was able to snooze a little.

At one point, we did stop at a McDonalds attached to a gas station. (The air in the tires needed checked). And Holly and I bee-lined straight for it, our mouths drooling at the prospect of some iced tea. It occurred to me, as we were walking the wrong way through the drive thru to the front door, that I hadn't really seen any of those ubiquitous styrofoam cups anywhere in the country... and that that might be a bad omen re: our chances for iced tea heaven. But I tromped on... only to have my hopes dashed. I was heartbroken. So I down troddenly meandered over to the gas station and bought myself some juice - black current, my new favorite. Don't know if we have it on our side of the pond (doubt it) but I will definitely check for it.

We arrived in Dublin, parked the car at the guys' hotel and had lunch. We took this opportunity to decide how to spend the rest of our day. The guys wanted to head to the Jameson Whiskey factory tour, and in fact, Tom was chosen to be a special taster! I needed to find a bookstore to see if I could find any Superman comics for someone back home, and Holly and I needed to check into our hovel du jour (which was the same one we stayed in before, just different room.)

We were successful in both regards and dumped some of our stuff in our room, this time on the third floor (six, count them, six flights of stairs). We still had a couple of hours and there was a chocolate cafe just down the street that we'd had our eye on ever since we arrived almost a week ago. As we sat outside of the cafe drinking our (bottled) iced tea and eating our chocolate ice cream, the heavens opened up and for the first time since we'd arrived, it poured. Almost immediately, pedestrians crowded under the awning - we, however, just relaxed at our table and felt like we belonged there, as opposed to feeling like tourists.

After the rain stopped (temporarily, as it turns out), Holly and I started traipsing toward Christ's Church Cathedral, which was where we arranged to meet Tom and Bill. My new umbrella was in the car, in the parking garage. So when the heavens burst forth again, this Rose got watered. I don't know how many blocks it was to the Cathedral, but I looked and felt like a drowned rat when I got there. It was a very pretty building, and there was a mass service going on while we were milling around, which felt sort of intrusive. I know that if there were tourists roaming around church while I'm sitting there trying to maintain focus, it would be very difficult.

In the basement, there were exhibits.. the most intriguing of which was the mummified cat and rat that were found in the pipe organ at one point when they were cleaning it. Rather macabre, but still interesting.

It was still raining when we left and as we trekked back towards the car so Holly and I could wrangle clean undies to take upstairs to our hovel, as we were NOT going to lug our suitcases up six flights of stairs, we found a New York Pizza place and decided to go in, eat, and maybe wait out the rain a little. That plan worked because it was only drizzling when we left.

Finally, we got upstairs to our hovel, vowing not to go back down until morning. The wi-fi worked and we had warm water in the shower. It was a relatively relaxing way to spend our final night in Dublin.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wednesday, July 9th

Today's itinerary was to leave Killarney and meander toward Galway, making sure to hit the Cliffs of Moher on the way.  Mostly, it was going to mean a lot of time in the car and scenery.  I immediately fell asleep!  I've been good at waking up about 6am, but then, with no coffee in me, my eyelids have been getting heavy about 9-ish.

I woke up to hear our driver badmouthing Eileen - seems she did her job, which is to lead us on the quickest, most direct path, but he wasn't expecting a ferry.  Turns out, though, that this ferry ride was going to cut about an hour or so off the drive.  The good Lord got us on the ferry seconds before it pulled out and we trotted up to the top to see what we could see.  Despite very overcast weather, it was fabulous up there, the wind blowing my increasingly disheveled hair and putting a wee bit of pink to my cheeks.

We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher and I had to retract what I'd previously said about Ireland and their gift shop savvy.  There was a two level center built into the mountain, with a huge gift shop - I bought Gnarley a lovely pair of socks, and a restaurant, and an education center with two videos showing.  We didn't bother with the videos - pffftt...  After pottying, we started trekking up the hill.  It forked and you could go up either way.  We ended up going up one, then back down and up the other.  The views were spectacular.  Again, very overcast, it would have been incredible with blue sky and fluffy clouds, but it was still wonderful.  We made sure to take tons of beautiful pics.  Although I refrained from making like the German couple in front of us who were taking pics of cows.  I'm like... they're cows, but then, that's probably what other people were thinking when I was taking pictures of the sheep.

Holly and Tom didn't manage to make it down the hill until an hour after Bill and me.  I had horrible thoughts of someone breaking a leg out there, or falling over a cliff.  (You know, I'm still leery about us having to make an emergency trip to an ER at some point on this trip.)  But they finally got back.  Seems the path continues F-A-R after the point where Bill and I turned back, and they continued to try get closer to some castle ruins... but each time they'd turn a bend, they'd see that it look still just as far off!  We had lunch at the restaurant there and then hit the road.  

We continued on to Galway.  There were a variety of things we could have stopped to see, but our dogs were barking and we were just content to watch the scenery.  We did take a scenic drive, during which Tom swore that we were NOT driving any more scenic drives.  (That wasn't the only swearing coming from the front seat, let me tell you..)  But he successfully navigated us back to the main road and I decided he'd definitely earned that Guinness I told him I'd buy him, so tonight he'd get it. 

We did stop at one more sight before hitting Galway - it was Castle Dungaire - it was picturesque, but the 80 or so steps going up were tiring to my increasingly pooped self - and my knee especially.  I definitely made up today for not having physical therapy since last week!  We saw what there was to see and it was a good thing because they were closing the doors behind us... didn't even give us the opportunity to spend hard cold Euros in the gift shop!  We could have had a medieval dinner there - we could smell it cooking - but we really just wanted to get to Galway, find our hovel, find food and relax.

Pleasantly, our hovel for the night in Galway turned out to be what I thought we were going to be having all along so far... college dorms.  So it wasn't a hovel at all!  And I got my own room  :)  but the pillow was like sleeping on particularly thick cardboard - wasn't nice considering I normally sleep on two big fluffy ones at home.  I thought about sleeping on my sweatshirt and jacket, but was too pooped to get out of bed to get them.  But I jump ahead...

After dumping our stuff and resting for a while, we hopped back in the car.  Per Rick Steves, Galway is mostly known for its night-life, so we headed "downtown" to a district full of pubs, restaurants, shops, etc.  We meandered around, found a nice restaurant that met with Sporty Spice's picky tastebuds and sounded good to the rest of us too.  I had a steak covered with mushrooms and grilled onions and some "pepper sauce"  not sure what that was, but it was delicious.  I asked about iced tea - got a pot of tea and a "pint" of ice.  It worked, but the almost boiling tea melted the ice immediately (I wasn't thinking or I'd have let it cool first).  It tasted fine, though, if a little warmish.  On the way from our dorm, we passed a McDonald's and we plan on hitting it tomorrow to get some iced tea - assuming they have iced tea, which I'm thinking is a big assumption. 

After dinner, we trotted around the streets, hit a gift shop or two, got some ice cream, and watched a street performer who juggled with sticks on fire and ultimately was juggling on a unicycle.  He was very good, funny, and entertaining.  By now it was time for the Argentina/Netherlands World Cup semi-final game.  You ask:  Rose?  What up? You interested in the World Cup?  I thought you were anti-sports!?  My response is, yeah, I could still care less, but my driver wanted to see it, so we bopped into a bar and watched the game.  I listened to a podcast on my iPod and sipped my drink (more of the "hard" stuff - cranberry juice - one thing's for sure, if I have to go to the ER on this trip, it won't be because of a UTI!)  We stayed until the first 90 minutes were over, and it was still 0-0... then we headed back to the dorm.

We had good free wi-fi at the dorm and I was able to post entries that I'd been saving up, as well as pics on Facebook.  Chit-chatted with some peeps on FB, then finally had to shut off the light, cursing the 6 hour time difference because I was jealous that I was pooped when all my peeps were still up and peppy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tuesday, July 8th

When we left Dublin, in the rental car, during rush hour, it was raining and cold.  I had made the foolish mistake of packing for July in Indiana.  I figured it would be cooler, but not this much cooler.  I'd already purchased myself a sweatshirt/souvenir, but at this point I was wishing I'd gotten something more like a hoodie.  Oh well, won't have room for another one in the ol' suitcase, so I'll survive.  Anyway, as Tom expertly drove us to the southwest area of Kerry, I was cold in the back seat, covered up by my sweatshirt and I napped.  I even slept through going through a toll booth, which means I really was asleep, not just cat napping.

After a couple of hours, we arrived at Muckross House - a Victorian era home of a variety of rich people.  While we waited for our tour to start, we roamed around the grounds and gardens.  Got some lovely pics.  I also hit the gift shop and bought myself a jacket lest my arms freeze and fall off a la Venus de Milo.  

Going through the house was very interesting.  Having just finished reading a trilogy that took place in the Victorian era, I was able to imagine the book taking place in a house similar to this.  What I had issues with was imagining where all 22 of the servants went!  And at some point Queen Victoria came to visit and brought with her 50 servants!  I'll be happy with my condo and cats, thank you.

We dined and pottied and hit the road for Killarney!  After being mislead by the GPS, who we've named Eileen for the trip - on the grounds that she needs an Irish name.  I suggested Shannon, but was vetoed... ok I realize that wasn't exactly a full sentence there, but after Eileen failed to get us to our hovel for the evening, we found it by asking a couple of locals.  

We dumped the luggage and had a short rest and then piled back in the buggy to check out the Ring of Kerry.  This was a 112-mile drive around a peninsula with fantastic scenery, mountains, coastal areas.  We left in the late afternoon, feeling safe in the knowledge that the sun doesn't go down until about 10:30 or so.  It was beautiful.  But I'm pretty sure that Tom got quite a few more gray hairs on that time.  At one point, the road was barely wide enough for our car, let alone the one coming head on at us.  We saw tons of cows, sheeps, and goats, depending on our elevation.  

I told Tom, during one of the especially terrifying parts, that I'd buy him a beer at dinner because  he'd earned it.  Unfortunately, by the time we got back to civilization, at 10:30, everything was closed.  I needed some protein, however, so we inquired and were told about some "fast food" place where people got burgers and such for carryout.  We were able to get food - I got fried chicken and was even able to take a piece back to the hovel with me for breakfast in the morning... after all free breakfast is fine, but when all it is is toast and cereal, there be protein-related issues.  I set my boob (the chicken, that is) on my open window sill and it was nicely chilled overnight.

The wi-fi at this hovel wasn't working, for whatever reason, so I wasn't able to post any pics, but eventually, we'll get back to someplace with wi-fi and I'll get all of these posted on Facebook at least.

Monday, July 7th

After a good night's rest, Holly and I awoke, too late for breakfast at the hovel, so we hit a Starbucks before Tom and Bill joined us.  This was momentous because this was my first time purchasing coffee at a Starbucks.  You'll remember, I've only recently started drinking coffee.. and that's assuming I'm not imagining having blogged about it.  Hmm..

Anyway, the plan for the day was that we would purchase, for a low price of 19 Euro, a ticket for a hop-on, hop-off tour bus which, as good fortune would have it, stopped right outside our hovel!  The first pick up was about 10, so we bought our tickets and got aboard.  Along the ride, the driver would impart all sorts of tidbits about the city and its history.  Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, none of them were as good as Barry.  

Our first stop was at Trinity College, an active university whose library houses a copy of every book ever published in the British Isles... I'm wondering where the section was that housed all those dreadful Barbara Cartland romances from the seventies.  Additionally, the library is home to the Book of Kells - the oldest handwritten copy of the four gospels in existence.  We couldn't take pics of it, so I'll try and Google up a copy.

Trinity College was nice, but I think we all agreed that it would be a pain to attend a college where tourists were crawling all over the place.  

Back on the bus - our next stop was Dublin Castle.  Ireland, having been under British rule for 700 plus years, didn't have a king living in this castle, but the British King's main dude assigned to keep an eye on Ireland would live in this castle.  We got to roam around the upstairs and then took a guided tour of the underbelly, if you will, of the castle.  No dungeons, though.  I've discovered that Holly is a blood-thirsty thing, wanting to see dungeons and torture stuff.  Hmm.. and I'm sharing a room with her.

After we finished at the Castle, we needed to sit down for some lunch and we found an Italian restaurant directly across the road from the Castle.  I had a lovely grilled chicken and green salad.  Getting actual vegetables in over here is harder than one might think it would be.

Back on the bus - the next place we wanted to investigate was Kilmainham Gaol ("jail") - I'm thinking that this place should have made Holly's bloodthirsty soul happy.  We got to tour the jail where all sorts of Ireland's political prisoners have been held and executed.  In fact, I now know so much more about Ireland's political history and their rebellions/revolutions and what all it took to become a free republic rather than a part of the UK.  I really enjoyed the tour guide at the Gaol - she did a marvelous job.

One thing that I have learned about Ireland that I think they could improve upon is the important lesson learned at Graceland, i.e., "exiting through the gift shop."  Now, if you go to Graceland, you will not be able to leave any of the various sections of the estate without exiting through the gift shop.  Ireland, however, if they have a gift shop, it's only selling a few dinky books.  I'm thinking that Gaol could have had a gift shop with books, yes, but also all sorts of things.. action figures of the political figures, a toy gallows, paper dolls of the prisoners with different prison outfits..  you get my point.  They are missing a prime income generating opportunity here!

When we got back on the bus, the next stop we made was the Guinness factory.  Not that any of us were really interested in going through the tour, but Tom was interested in seeing the gift shop.  Here was another missed opportunity.  You HAD to take the tour to get to the gift shop.  NO !  They should have had the gift shop available to anyone passing by.  I might not want to take the tour, but I might be inclined to buy a doodad with "Guinness" written on it.  

After all of this excitement, when we finally made it to our last stop on the tour, the Jameson Whisky factory (are you sensing a trend?), it had already started it's final tour, so while Tom was disappointed, I can't say that I was.  And my sore feet definitely weren't!  

Soon our bus dropped us back off at the hovel.  It was too early to go up to our TV-less room, so we headed off in search of dinner at a pub with live music.  We asked the guy behind the counter at the hovel and he suggested two places not far away, in the Temple Bar area.  We found the first one, and there was no room in the inn.  So we headed for the second, it had a table, but the music wasn't all that outstanding.  We ate some food and fabulous desserts and I had not one but TWO cranberry juices (I know, I know - don't judge me!) then we roamed back down to the first place in time to hear the musician's last two songs which were very enjoyable.  Made me wish we'd have been able to fit into that pub in the first place.

Sunday, July 6th

For our first day in Ireland, we had bought tickets for a day bus tour to Cork and the Castle Blarney.  The only problem with this tour as far as I could see was that we were supposed to be at the arranged meeting place at... gulp... 6:50 am!  One supposes that if you're physically inclined to do so, you could snooze on the bus, and I did a little bit, but not much.  

Now Bill (Sporty Spice) is the one who found this tour company and I assume he just Googled, but it was a home run!  Our driver/tour guide was Barry and he was great!  Funny, accented, but not too thick as to be unintelligible.  We learned that cyclists are the "spawn of Satan" from him as well as the details regarding the sport of hurling and "Irish football" - not to be confused with American football or soccer!

We drove about two hours, with a potty break in there somewhere, and our first stop was the Rock of Cashel - this was a surprise to me as I only thought we were doing Cork and Blarney!  But it was very pretty, the ruins of the seat of the ancient kings of Munster which was later given to the Church.  After a short video we were able to ramble around.  The "youngest" building was built in the 1400's.  There was a very pretty cemetery, St. Patrick's Cross, and a beautiful rainbow - so beautiful, it almost seemed fake! 

After about another hour, we arrived at the Castle Blarney.  Bill, obviously not feeling that he had enough blarney in him, wanted to actually kiss the Blarney Stone.  Holly and I chose instead to wander around the grounds and see things like the witch's kitchen, the druids' cave, and a fairy ring.  Then as the time came for us to wander back to the bus, we hit a shop or two, including a chocolate shop that gave us samples.  

We then drove to and were let loose upon the town of Cork.  By this time we were ravenous and we looked for someplace to eat - found a nice cafe - then ambled through shops until it was time to rejoin our bus.  My knee, at this point, was beginning to hate the bus, but it managed to survive.  We arrived back in Dublin a little after 7pm and it was too early to return to our TV-less hovels, so we checked out the pub next door to our hovel and had some wings.  I am on a campaign to find iced tea - I ask for it everywhere.  So far my only non-alcoholic, non-carbonated choices have been water and cranberry juice.  Of course, part of the problem in my iced tea quest is that there's no ice in this blessed island!

After a relaxing couple of hours in the pub, we returned to our room and passed out.  We were pooped. 

Finally, I apologize for there being no pics associated with this blog.  I'm doing all of this via my iPad and it's a lot more effort than I'm willing to devote to get the pics in this.  Sorry.  :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July 4-5th - Leaving on a Jet Plane

July 4th - I woke up to a beautiful, cool morning.  Had breakfast, cuddled with the kids and then set out for Indy and the beginning of my latest travel adventures.

My first observation was that Samantha (my GPS) seems to take me to Indy via a different route every time I go.  I think she just likes to test my faith in her ability to get me where I'm going.  But I was in a good mood, so I just let her do the navigating and bopped along with Casey Kasem's AT 40 from sometime in the 70's.  good times.

I received a text while driving, from the grandson of a friend asking me to get a picture of a Leprechaun for him and his twin sister.  I was concerned for a minute that he didn't realize that they weren't real, but then decided that the odds were than we'd probably see someone dressed up like a leprechaun during the trip, so I accepted the challenge.  Yes, I admit that I texted my response while driving - this was bad of me.

I drove straight through to Indy which, in retrospect wasn't wise.  I was almost crippled (my knee, remember) when I was getting out of the car at Chez Burns.  A friend of Tom's came and picked us up to take us to the airport - I thought this was very nice of him.  Turns out I think he was just killing time before the next World Cup game.  

Upon arrival at Indy Int'l Airport, upon checking in, I discovered that I could "upgrade" my seat to a bulkhead seat for a mere $19, which I did - this was a wise decision, as it allowed me more leg room and I was able to stretch my leg out more.  We also made arrangements for a cart to assist me in getting from gate to gate in Chicago.  After going through security, we immediately hit the gift shop!  I bought a bottle of water and a couple of adorbs refrigerator magnets.  

The flight from Indy to Chicago was uneventful and upon arrival, there was a cart to trek us from our gate to the security office, where I was then was transferred to a wheelchair for transport via trolley to the international terminal.  Turns out that the decision to do this was also wise, as I'm not sure my knee would have made the trip.  Plus, the guy who was steering my wheelchair, and getting us through security, was incredibly nice and funny.  

At Chicago, I was able to "upgrade" my seat to the "infant" seat aisle.  This aisle, it turns out, has more room because there are baby changing tables on the wall (like in a McD's bathroom) that can be pulled down.  Fortunately there were no babies.  And while the leg room wasn't great, it was much better than it could have been and I was right near the bathroom, so if I needed to get up, I could easily make sure there wasn't anyone in there before I got up.  Also, I know about the mile-high club and all that, but while contemplating raising myself from the seat in the tiny bathroom, (which action requires thought and preparation), I'm noticing how small the room was.  Now I realize I'm a big girl, but this is a tiny room.  HOW do they do that??

Our flight didn't leave until a little more than 30 minutes after it was scheduled to leave, but yet, due to fabulous tail winds, we arrived in Dublin almost an hour ahead of schedule!  Incredible.  Oh, and just let me point out that if you're going to travel, traveling on July 4th is highly recommended.  The airports were all quite empty.  Two thumbs up for traveling on a national holiday!

As I said, we arrived early, but it turns out that Bill, our traveling companion, was arriving late due to a flat tire.  I think I've mentioned Bill.  He is Tom's best friend, was his best man, and is a fun guy and a very picky eater.  Other than the picky eating thing, he fits in well with the group.  I have christened the two of them, Bill and Tom, the Spice Girls because spicy foods are not their forte.  

Bill's plane finally arrived and after a few Abbott/Costello-like moments, we found him.  On to the rental car place!  Now remember, we're in Ireland and there's the whole driving on the left side of the road thing... along with the steering wheel being on the right side of the car.  I was very glad that I'm not the one driving.  Although more leg room would be nice  :) !  We found Bill and Tom's hotel, got them checked in and (after first being given someone else's room,) dumped their luggage.  Next we were off to find Holly's and my's hostel.  I was under the misunderstanding that we were staying in a college dorm.  I know we are in Edinburgh, but this is an actual hostel.  The room is very small.  In fact, square foot wise, I'm thinking it's about the same size as a cell that we saw in the gaol (jail) later on on the trip.  But we have a working toilet.  But for about $45 per person per night, and considering we aren't spending that much time in the room, it is fine.  Plus, we get free breakfast! Which is more than Bill and Tom are getting at their hotel.  But they have TV and we don't, so it's a draw.

After dumping our crap at our hostel (I seemed to want to incorrectly call it a brothel at first, and now I just lovingly refer to it as our hovel), we met up with the guys and took a walk to the Temple Bar district to the actual Temple Bar - it was very noisy and busy, and really sort of what I envisioned.  Not being a big bar person, I would have preferred a nice meal at a restaurant, but it was definitely an experience to be had.  There appeared to be two different bachelor parties going on and despite it only being like 6-ish, they were well onto having a very good time!

We trotted back to the hovel, hitting a gift shop or two on the way, and then finally Holly and I collapsed in our room.  I called Mom using the Viber app (which if I haven't mentioned before, allows for free telephone and texting over the internet, so you don't have to deal with international calling) and the sound quality was off the charts!  Very impressed.  After reassuring Mom that her precious baby girl (and the other one) had arrived safely and inquiring as to the status of my precious babies, Rose zonked out.  It had been a long day, covering six different time zones, and I'd earned a good night's sleep.