Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ireland and England

The journey to Ireland was eventful! Christine was to rendezvous with us at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Her scheduled gate was just one concourse over so Teresa and Tierney waited to greet her. She never appeared. . She called and explained that at the American Airlines counter at National, at first four, then only one person was checking in passengers. She was in line over an hour and when it got to her turn it was 30 minutes until the flight left. Just as she was being told she would make it, the lone AA staffer said "oops, they just closed the doors". They scheduled her for the same flight the next day.
Bummed, the three of us headed to Shannon. We were ahead of schedule when landing but had to sit on the tarmac for an hour because the hydraulics had gone out on the plane and it couldn't be steered. Other flights had to circle as we were blocking the runway.
We picked up our car from hertz and headed to the Cliffs of Moher. It was cool and windy but visibility was good. At Teresa's insistence we climbed to areas we were not allowed.

Next we headed to the Burren area, featuring exposed limestone. We stopped at the Dolmen altar from 300 B.C. From there we went to the Ailnice Cave, not a remarkable cave and certainly not worth the 12 Euro per adult charge.

From there we headed to Galway and our B & B in the Salthill area. It was called Amber Bay and was across the street from the bay with a great view. Anthony and Patrick were the owners and couldn't have been nicer.
We decided to drive to the city center for dinner. After touring the main area of town we chose a restaurant- somewhat pedestrian though my chicken wasn't bad and Tierney enjoyed her lasagna. Teresa was unimpressed with the fajita.
Back to the inn where we chatted with our hosts who themselves were well-traveled, recently returning from Dubai.
The next day Teresa and I arose at 6:15 and by 6:35 were off to Shannon Airport, an hour and 10 minute drive.
Christine was allowed breakfast back at the B & B even though we had not paid for her. After she showered we headed back to the city to explore some more.

After Galway we headed to the Connemara area of marble fame and beautiful landscapes. We passed the Famine Walk Memorial and Coffin Ship Statue on the way to Westport.

We arrived at out B & B shortly before 5:00 and checked in. It was the boulevard Guest House  and Sadie, our proprietor, was very nice. We were pleased with our room and location.
We ate at a place that claimed traditional and Italian food. I had a kebab, Teresa and Christine had  fish and chips and Tierney had a pizza- unremarkable.
It took us two tries to find a pub with traditional Irish music. We left early so Christine could catch up on her sleep.
The morning started with scrambled eggs and tomato. We obtained help from a local to navigate around a  detour caused by an accident. We stopped next in Donegal City. We had a nice lunch at the Blueberry Tearoom, then toured the castle and checked out the city.

Back on the road to Derry, We first walked through the city inside the walls, then decided to walk on the walls. After that we explored two malls and headed to our B & B.

The Abbey was very nice and well located. Seamus, our host, was very friendly. From our window we could see the murals created during the Troubles.
We went to The Exchange for dinner and everyone enjoyed their meal.I had chicken carbonera, Teresa had Szechuan chicken, Christine escalope and Tierney had minute steak. We indulged and shared chocolate fudge cake and cheesecake for dessert
In the morning after a good breakfast, we did a walking tour of the murals, then off to the Giant's Causeway where we frolicked on the basaltic rocks.

 Next to Belfast. We found the Tara Lodge and checked in. We then walked to the city center and took a tour of City Hall. We then went shopping until the time for our Political Taxi Tour. There are two competing tours. We got the Protestant one. The tour included history with a few omissions (The Penal Laws and Bloody Sunday among them), then we were driven through the Shankhill (Protestant) neighborhood. We heard more of the recent history including the somewhat uneasy ceasefire.

We saw the pallets being delivered for the great bonfire on July 11, the eve of the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. We saw many murals that stirred the passions of the Orangemen.

We then drove along the "Peace Wall". The gates were open until 8:00 p.m. Tierney created some additional graffiti on it. On the other side would be the Catholic neighborhood of Falls Road. That was our next stop. Murals were predominant there also, as well as memorials to the martyrs.

After the tour we made arrangements to eat with the family of Christine's current boyfriend. It was a very nice evening.

In the morning we headed south and stopped at Newgrange which is the oldest building in Europe, 600 years older than the pyramids of Egypt. It included a sunlit passage that illuminates the back chamber 5 days at the time of the winter solstice. It is also known for its neolithic art. No definitive explanation for it though I continue to maintain all such formations were calendars so farmers knew when to plant. The carvings reflected a count of days from the winter solstice to begin planting.

On to Dublin. We found our hotel easily and checked in. Teresa and I returned our rental car (not so easily) and walked back. We cleaned up and headed out. First to the Post Office for the practical reason of mailing postcards, and secondly to see where the stand was made at the Easter Uprising.
We then headed  toward Grafton Street for actual shopping and window shopping. We found an Italian restaurant on a side street- The Bocca. I had penne cacciatore, Teresa had penne chili, Christine had spaghetti and meatballs and Tierney had fettucine with cream sauce and mushrooms.

We decided to split up with the girls who were to have no more than two drinks and back by 11:30. Meanwhile Teresa and I  walked to Trinity College then found a Hard Rock Cafe where we split a Fudge Brownie Sundae. On the way back to the room we stopped at a bar to hear traditional Irish music.

The next morning we bought pastry and headed for Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. It was reasonably early so the crowds were not bad. There were exhibits about scribing in Ireland and other old books to view before seeing the famous one. Above it was a library with rare works. It included an original signed proclamation of 1916 declaring Irish independence. All 7 signers were hanged.

From there we went to the National Art Gallery which featured Flemish as well as Anglo/Irish painters. Not far away was the National Museum of Archaeology. The amount of gold in the B.C. artifacts was surprising.

We then walked to Stephen's Green to enjoy what had become a very nice day. We then walked back down Grafton Street and saw street performers including a marionette puppet act.

We wandered, shopped and made our way back to the room.
We went back to Grafton Street to find a restaurant - Tierney was looking for seafood. The Mackerel could fit us in at 9:15 so we did more wandering and shopping. Everyone enjoyed their meal. I had roasted sea bass with olives and herbs; Tierney had two appetizers: oysters and a crab cheese dish; Teresa and Christine had swordfish.
After dinner the girls headed to The Pavilion, a drinking mecca on the campus of Trinity College. Teresa and I found a pub with live music close to the hotel. The girls had discovered it the night before and visited it again after we left.

The next day was traveling day, Dublin to Gatwick - by train into London, underground to the hotel. After unpacking we headed to Leicester Square, strolled through that area, including Piccadilly Circus. We walked toward Chinatown - which is a street with a few Chinese restaurants. We ate at the Golden Dragon. I had sweet and sour chicken, Teresa had Chili chicken, Christine had prawns and mushrooms and Tierney had chicken fried rice; a little pricey for what we got.
The hotel had 4 computers so Teresa and I played a while on them. Tierney took advantage of the free wifi.
We slept in a little the next day, The hotel delivered  bananas, fruit granola yogurt cups and  orange juice at your door each morning.
Our first stop in the morning was the National Gallery, quite impressive and free.We took an hour tour after we had looked around a while on our own, and we stayed a while after the tour. We then headed to the British Museum- again free- highlights were the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles (stolen from Greece)

After that we decided to go on the Original Tour Bus- we got the Rick Steves discount which paid for his book. We took the double decker bus with open top with live commentary from Michael- two time Olympic Gold medal winner in catching the javelin and heading the shot. The tour lasted 2 hours and it started getting cool before it was over.
We went to Aberdeen Steak House for dinner. I had chicken Caesar salad, Teresa had lamb shanks, mashed potatoes and green salad, Christine had chicken shish kebab over rice and Tierney had a rare steak with green salad. Back to the hotel.
In the morning we headed to the flea market on Brick lane. They had everything from sunscreen to bicycle parts. Tierney bought sunglasses, I bough a pastry. Next to the south side of the Thames where Tierney went to Tate Modern while we went on a tour of the Globe Theater. We met up afterwards and went to the Westminster Pier to take a tour by catamaran boat of the Thames.

After that we went to buy tickets for the London Eye- the giant ferris wheel. We ate first then got in line. At 2:45 the line was about 5 minutes. I asked for a private car for the 4 of us. The guy at the gate told me he could make it a small crowd so we had 9 instead of 25 in our cage.
After the ride we watched some street performers on the wharf for a while before heading to the Museum of London, which gives a history of the city from Roman times until the fire of 1666.
The girls were going out with Jamie, Christine's friend from DC so they left early. Teresa and I walked back later. We cleaned up and went to Leicester Square to spend the evening.We both had lamb kebobs for dinner. After walking a while and having trouble finding chocolate ice cream, I got a  chocolate milk shake and Teresa a sundae with caramel and Smarties from McDonalds. Back to the hotel.

The next morning we started at the tower of London, first seeing the Crown Jewels, a tour of the White Tower, and then the general Beefeaters tour. We also went through the Bloody Tower, the Torture Tower and the Beauchamp Tower.

 We decided to delay St. Paul's and instead went to the Temple Church of DaVinci Code fame. On to Westminster Abbey where Teresa gave us the Rick Steves tour. 

We then went to Kensington Gardens where we eventually found the Peter Pan Statue. We decided to buy theater tickets for "Avenue Q" a satirical" ((I suppose that's how they got away with it)  a musical parody of Sesame Street. We therefore grabbed a pizza slice each and shared a chicken kebab (greasy) for dinner. We both enjoyed the play and would recommend it. The girls had pre-purchased tickets to Eqqus which they enjoyed but that Christine described as strange. (Tierney didn't want to go seeing Daniel Radcliff naked with us sitting with them!)

The next morning we went early to St. Paul's Cathedral. When they opened up the stairs we climbed to the top of the dome. After St. Paul's we went to St. James' Park and ate ice cream. Then to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the Guard, very disappointing. Stockholm is till No. 1 in this regard. We tried Italian again for dinner. I had a sausage sauce penne- pretty good, Teresa had the same. Christine had a gorgonzola spinach gnocchi-mediocre- and Tierney had a meat plate and salad. On the way back we stopped at a pub playing Greek music where we all had a drink.

Off to the Victoria and Albert museum. Just a mixed bag; had more Rodins than I had seen in one place before. We separated from the girls as they were anxious to get to Harrod's to shop.

In the morning, after a $150 cab ride, we picked up our rental minivan near Heathrow. We headed to Salisbury where we ate lunch, walked through the city, St. Thomas a Becket Church and then the Cathedral where we went on the free tour.

From there we headed to Stonehenge and took the audio tour around it. First order of business afterwards was to go in search of gas, with Christine having been very concerned about our tank showing under 20 miles of gas left. Success.... and on to Bath. We found our B & B with little difficulty, cleaned up and Italian Pasta for dinner. I had a Mushroom Pasta dish, Teresa had Moroccan lamb stew and the girls each had pizza. We then walked around the town, which was quiet until England scored a goal on Estonia which prompted cheering from the scattered pubs.

The next morning we went on the walking tour of Bath, followed by lunch. I had a Kebab, Teresa a salad, Christine a delicious tuna melt and Tierney, because we had a "continental" breakfast, eggs and toast.

Next was the Roman Baths tour, which was lengthy with the audio tour. We had expected the girls to go off shopping instead they had sat waiting for us outside for 1 1/2 hours. We must have missed them for we had been off wandering. I had a chocolate milkshake and Teresa a brownie.

Back to the B & B to clean up for movie night. Teresa and I shared a pub meal of sausage and onion baguette and saw "Pirates of the Caribbean"-the plot gets sillier! Christine and Tierney saw the early showing of "The Painted Veil", went out to eat and check out pubs, getting back late. Apparently they made the better choice. The next morning we headed to Windsor. We parked at our B & B and walked to the Castle where we took the audio tour. We got to see all the rooms this time since the Queen was not there, though she did arrive later in the day.

After lunch we took a river cruise of the Thames. The obscure picture of the home I took was once owned by Michael Caine, but is now the home of Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. We then walked to Eton where the Boys School is located. Back to the B & B to check in and clean up.

Next morning we took the girls to the airport and then went to Slough where we bought some provisions and saw the town. Then back to the airport to pick up Margaret and June. Straight away to Diss where we went to Dennis and Val's. After a visit we went to the Rookery, our best accommodation. It was very nice, huge room, very nice hostess. From there we went back to Dennis and Val's and we then went to Chequer's Diner. The building had been a pub since the 1600's. Back to Dennis and Val's for more visiting then back to the Rookery.

The next morning we went to Barham for the Car Boot sale. Probably a couple hundred tables and cars; after browsing through a good deal of junk, Teresa bought a small bowl. I bought a coke. Back to Diss to use the Launderette and then to Dennis and Val's again where a huge crowd of relatives arrived. Our hosts served great food all day and there was quite lively and entertaining reminiscing. Luckily, everyone had a great sense of humor. We left for a short time with Betty and June to drive to the sites of Diss and to visit Michael at his house. Returned to Dennis and Val's where we exchanged email addresses.


The next morning we picked up Betty, June and Michael and headed to Bury St. Edmonds where we saw the Church and sparse ruins of the abbey. There were some pretty flower beds but several were newly planted. We walked through the town and stopped for some pastry and tea for June.

Back to the car and onto Great Liverence where we looked at the small church and headstones from the Noble family. From there to Thedford, where there were more ruins of an abbey, this one was confiscated in 1540, one year after Bury St. Edmonds. Many English had great fear that Catholic Royalty such as Mary, James II and Charles I would restore to the Church the lands stolen when Henry VIII felt the urge to divorce his wife.The Church had accumulated lots of land, mostly through wills of the pious over several centuries. Abbeys were expensive to maintain; they were used as places to stay for Pilgrims and poorer travelers, as well as hospitals and refuges for the poor and needed the revenues from the abbey lands to maintain them. When they were confiscated, there was no revenue to maintain religious buildings that themselves produced no income, as the barons and kings put that revenue to other uses. James II wanted to allow freedom of religion. This was thought to be too much as the barons and king did not have much trouble convincing their subjects that the Pope was a worse guy than the guy who framed at least one wife so he could behead her. For dinner we went to a Pub and Teresa and I ate Spanish Chicken, June a steak and Ale Pie and Betty had ham. Rather mediocre.

Next morning Teresa and I headed first to Lincoln. We went through its cathedral then ate our picnic lunch of bread, ham, cheese, tomatoes and olive oil. We then went to the Bishop's Palace with its audio tour. The castle came next and its gaol. Off to York. Lincoln housed one of the copies of the Magna Carta.



We arrived but needed a loop around the city to locate our pub hotel room which was right outside the city walls. After cleaning up we walked the walls anti-clockwise (a British term) from Fishers Gate to Michelgate where we went into town and ate at a pub. Teresa had a Greek Salad. I had a burger with mushrooms and bleu cheese on panini with salad and fries. We were both very happy with our choices. We then walked through the town. We both got a strawberry-peach custard pastry as dessert. More walking, then back to the hotel.

Next morning I grabbed a pastry and coke on the way to the two hour and 15 minute walking tour of the city. It was free and a good value. We had a little bit of rain but it didn't cause problems for the tour.

After the tour we visited the shrine of St. Margaret Clitherow. Queen Elizabeth I had made it a capital offense to say Mass or provide a place to say mass in Britain. St. Margaret had allowed a young priest to say mass in her house. She was found out. The priest was hanged, drawn and quartered. St. Margaret, being a women, didn't suffer as horrible a death. She was laid down on a bridge and a door put on top of her. Rocks were placed on the door until she was squashed to death.
 We then went to York Minister, the cathedral, and took a tour. We then climbed the tower and afterward toured the underworks which included the Roman Basilica, the Norman foundations and the medieval buildings. We walked around a little more before visiting the York Art Gallery. After that we walked around the town until we satisfied ourselves that we had seen it all. Back to the room. The weather wasn't great so we decided to eat at our B & B's pub. Teresa had Chicken Orange, I had Chicken Curry. Pretty good on both counts.

In the morning we headed east to try and find the huge puffin rookery on the coast. The weather was not ideal for bird watching so we gave up and headed to Scarborough. The fair was not in town; we went to the castle on a high rocky outcrop. It had seen action in wars from the Civil War to WWII when German ships shelled it and the town.
Next we went Helmsley where we ate some lunch and took an audio tour of the castle ruins. Then on to Durham and our B & B. For dinner we found a small Italian place. The starter of Garlic Bread Pizza with cheese was the best part of the meal. We walked around a little while before heading back to the B & B.

 The next morning was raining so we read until 10a.m. Then we braved the rain and went to Durham Cathedral which was the first large Norman Cathedral in England. After the cathedral, we walked through the town and the indoor flea market where Teresa obtained a Cornish Pastry which by her account was the best lunch she had on the trip. I had a sausage roll which was like a hot dog in a croissant. We bought several desserts at the same booth, some for then and some for later. The chocolate cake Teresa had was good as was the Raisin Pastry (with a touch of Marmalade maybe and cloves?) We then visited the library where we obtained library cards and got on computers. We went back to the B & B to clean up for the 5:15 showing of Oceans 13- somewhat formulaic with no unexpected twists. For dinner we went Italian and both had Chicken Cacciatore which was good.

The next day was Hadrian's Wall day. First we went to the Roman Site at Corbridge which was a Roman garrison south of the wall, preceded the Wall and remained as a garrison during that period.

Next was Chester's Roman Fort on the Wall near the Trina River.

Next was Homsteads Roman Fort which was the most extensive and had the best views.

Finally to Birdoswald Roman Fort.

We decided after that we would go directly to Keswick where we checked into our B & B, and first walked through the town, then through the gardens, then to the lake. We meandered back and ate at a no smoking pub. We both had Roast Chicken, stuffing, peas, carrots, and split a chocolate cake and ice cream for sweets.

Next morning we first did a four mile hike which took us up in the hills, through the forest and to the stone circle. We came back by the river, got to our car and took the scenic Lake District drive along Lake Windemere.

We arrived at Blackpool rather early so we headed out along the promenade. We walked three or four miles or so to the Pleasure Beach Park and rode the highest and longest roller coaster in Europe. We then walked back to our B & B. We then went out for Kebabs for dinner. They were spicy and Teresa enjoyed hers more than I did mine.

Next day our first stop was Chester, another Roman Fortress. We walked through the city, saw the Victorian clock, went to the museum and walked the walls. We stopped at a tea room on the way to Ludlow and Stokesey Castle where we did an audio tour.

In Ludlow we walked through the city, around the castle, and through the forest by the river. We had Tandoori for dinner, Teresa loved her spinach, lamb, potato dish, I enjoyed my Tandoori Chicken.

The next morning we headed to the Cotswolds which were very disappointing. We went to Broadway, Stow on Wold, Bourton on the Water and Northleaches. Bourton on the Water was the only one worth seeing or photographing.

On to our last stop to St. Albans. We checked into our hotel then explored the town and its cathedral, the site of the first Christian martyrdom in Britain, that of ... St. Alban. The Romans did him in for hiding a priest (sound familiar?)

We eventually made our way to the Fighting Cocks, the oldest pub in Britain and we each had a drink. We then walked by the river to the lake and saw the remnants of the Roman wall to the once second largest Roman city in England.
For dinner we went to the Hog's Head which went non-smoking that day. The rest of UK did it July 1, 2007, which kept us from frequenting too many pubs since we were a bit early.


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