Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ireland part 3

Our second day in Ireland was completely filled by a driving tour of the Ring of Beara in southwest Ireland which starts in Kenmare and ends in Glengarrief. It is a rugged small windy road along the coast line that gives you stunning views of the mountains, valleys, rivers, coast line and the sheep. The sheep are everywhere, speckled all over the country side which was one of Steph's favorite parts. At one point she had taken so many pictures of the sheep I had to take the camera away from her.

One stop along the way is Glen Inchaquin Park. This is a locally run park and I mean locally because it is a man and his wife running the park visitor center out of there home. Here you will find a waterfall over a rocky cliff and a beautiful valley specked with sheep. The park also offers many hiking trails through the valley and on the mountain. We took a short hike over the river and up the mountain. Steph took a good shot of me here. The park was also featured on a Passport to Europe episode covering County Cork Ireland!

We stopped for lunch at this small restaurant that turned out to be 4km from the main road. When we turned off looking for it we did not know it was so far off the road but it was worth it. It had an amazing view of the mountains and lake sitting at the base. It was one of my favorite spots on the trip. I wanted to lay in the sun and take a nap, especially after the great lunch of the local seafood of mussels and salmon.

The drive took us all day because we kept stopping along the way to take pictures and enjoy the magnificent views like this. Once we made the loop we ran across these cool tunnels.

The words to describe the driving tour don't do it justice so hopefully the pictures will.

Wow its already time to plan something for next weekend.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Now onto Ireland

Our trip to Ireland was motivated by the fact that Mary and Chris (college friends) would be in the midst of a 2 week trip to London and Ireland. We couldn't pass up the chance to catch up with them and see Ireland for a few days.

We met in Cork for the first of our 3 nights thanks to the England Spring Bank Holiday. After our adventurous trip getting to Ireland we started the at the famous Blarney Castle just outside Cork. Here you will find the Blarney Stone that if you kiss may earn you the gift of gab. The problem is you must lie on your back and hang over an opening a few stories above the ground below to kiss the stone. Since I didn't get home with a good shot of the stone I found a good one here that illustrates the challenges of kissing the stone. Its not as dangerous as its seems now that the modern safety rules have been applied. There is a guy to help you down and a guard bars to keep you from falling but the scary effect is still there.

On the castle grounds is a rock close which is a big kids play ground. There were all sorts of trees to climb, caves and tunnels to explore, and bunches of nooks and places to hide. Take a look at this photo of Steph in a neat little hiding place...looks like she is in a rabbit hole. This is Mary posing for a picture after climbing a tree on the grounds. Also see if you can find Steph hiding in the forest. I hit my head on a rock caving without a flash light so I was little gun shy for this part and mainly took pictures. Shame.

After Blarney Castle we stopped at this pub, which if its not Irish I don't know what is, to eat lunch. Then we were off to Kenmare in south west Ireland.

Along the way we stopped off for coffee in the little Irish town of Macroom. This is the only time it rained on us so here is Steph with an umbrella as we walked up to the remains of the castle there. Note that is Murphy's advert painted on the castle wall in the back ground not Guinness. They are rival beers. Oh and here I am with the cannons outside the castle.

Once we arrived in Kenmare, here is a shot of downtown, we checked into the Sheenview B&B and headed out for a night of dinner and Irish music. Believe it or not finding Irish music in Ireland is harder than you would think. We heard John Denver's Country Roads (Country roads, take me home To the place, I be-long, West Virginia, mountain momma Take me home, country roads) multiple times, gees. Plus all of the radio stations played American music! Not cool. Luckily we were able to find a place with locals singing Irish music who even did a Whiskey in the Jar shout out to us Kentuckians! The music is so very entertaining and fun to listen to.

All of our Ireland Day 1 photos are available on Flickr.

The Ring of Beara still to come...

Monday, May 28, 2007

A quick hop over to Ireland...ha!

Getting to Ireland this weekend was our first attempt flying with a low cost airline. We chose Ryanair who has dirt cheap airfare to many places throughout Europe and if you book in advance you can get actually get a 1 pence fare (plus tax of course). Anyway our first destination in Ireland was Cork. When we booked our flights it was much cheaper to book 2 separate flights; one from London to Dublin then another from Dublin to Cork. Our layover time in Dublin was a little over an hour which should be plenty of time, right?

At Gatwick airport we asked to check in for both flights but found out we could only check in for the first flight. I think it went something to the effect of, "You can only check in for the first flight now and you will have to check in for the other flight when you get to Dublin. Since they are separate flights you will have to leave the arrival terminal, go to the departure ticket desk and get your next boarding pass." This also meant that we would have to go through security again. Are you kidding me?

Now we are just hoping that we can do this re-check-in in an hour. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Ryanair closes the check in desk 40 minutes before the flight. Nice planning on my part...

Once we get in the terminal we see our first flight is delayed. Nice. Needless to say we didn't make the next flight even though we ran through the airport dodging all of the other tourists. The check in for our Cork flight was already closed. You also should know that when using Ryanair if you miss a flight they charge you a hefty fee to switch to another flight and they accept no responsibility for the second missed flight as they are unrelated bookings...ouch. Plus, the next flight to Cork is not for 3 hours...

At this point you need to remember that we are in Ireland and on Ireland time which is slow. Options?...what other options do we have? We found out there was a train in an hour and was the last train of the day. The Dublin airport is on the outskirts of the town and a 45 minute bus ride to the train station. We scrambled to get on the right bus and get to the station.

We caught the train with a few minutes to spare and are home free now, right? About 2 hours into the 3 hour train ride we are awoken (both of us snoozing on the train because we are exhausted) by a woman saying "SMOKE!". Our train car is filled with smoke. Cough.

Turns out it was a small electrical fire and evidently not a problem in Ireland because the train never stopped. They just had us all move over to the next rail car. We finally made it to Cork 3 hours late at midnight. After a short cab ride we crashed for the night at the hotel.

Yikes what a day. More on Ireland later...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Trip to Herne Bay

I wrote this post a week or so ago but never published it...

To start I have to give a big THANK YOU to Rosemary Shilling for taking care of us this weekend in Herne Bay. She was a lovely and gracious host.

On Saturday we started by going to Canterbury Cathedral. It is the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion and has roots all the way back to 597AD. After touring the cathedral and its grounds we did a little sight seeing in the city of Canterbury which was a happening little town. There is an old Roman wall around a big portion of the town including the cathedral.

Here are our Canterbury Pictures

Then we went onto Dover England to see the infamous Dover Castle. The castle is so rich in history its tough to know where to start. From being strengthened in 1066 by William the Conqueror to having its tunnels expanded to play a major role in World War II it is a tremendous place for history. Its keep was the home to Henry II and Henry VIII. We were able to take a tour of the Secret World War II Tunnels that would have been a nightmare during the war but a cool thing to see now.

Here are our Dover Castle Pictures. Due to the tremendous weather we were unable see France from Dover so we will have to go back.

On Sunday the weather was raining, windy and cold so we tried to stay dry while doing sight seeing around Herne Bay so most of it was from the car. Luckily Rosemary made reservations at a pub that was built in 1364 named the Red Lion so we were able to get out of the rain and grab some good ol' English grub. She introduced us to the traditional British Sunday roast dinner which is roast beef covered in gravy served with veggies and yorkshire pudding. It was excellent!

The journey home was a bit of headache because they were doing "planned engineering work" on the rail between Canterbury and London. At one point we had to get off the train onto a bus then back on the train into London. Needless to say it took us forever to get home. Arg we need a car...

Our sea shipment has arrived!

After an unexplained "ship diversion" our shipment from KY has sailed across the Atlantic and arrived in the UK. We shipped it on on March 12th and our delivery is set for 8 o'clock tomorrow morning May 15th. By my count that is 9 weeks. Good thing they estimated 6-8 with an emphasis on 6 only going to the UK.

Now onto European life after the air mattress...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I thought we moved to London

Its always fun going to big cities with small enclaves of different cultures. London is no different. Just around the corner from Leicester Square is London's china town as you can see with Steph in the picture. It was a neat place with lots of restaurants and shops in normal Chinese fashion. We ventured in a lot of them looking for one of Steph's favorites bubble tea but unfortunately couldn't find any.

This week has flown by due to the bank holiday on Monday, May Day. Now its time to start gearing up for the weekend. The weather this past few days has reverted back to normal UK spring weather meaning its been cool, cloudy, and windy with off and on rain. Hopefully it will brighten back up because we have all sorts of things planned for the weekend including a trip over to Canterbury Cathedral and Herne Bay. I don't want to give away too much but we should have some good pictures next week so keep an eye out.

Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Arsenal v Chelsea

After having lunch in London on Sunday we were in the tube stations riding over to Leicester Square. With the Premiership winding down I asked a bloke wearing an Arsenal jersey in passing what time the Arsenal played. He said "four o'clock". It was still an hour before kick off and they were playing a cross town rival Chelsea. As we continued down the escalator towards the train we noticed more and more Arsenal jerseys heading towards the game. I grabbed our London A-Z guide (which I highly recommend) and we were only a few stops away from the stadium. How lucky is this and its Arsenal v Chelsea...

The closer we got to the stadium (Emirates Stadium which opened in 2006) the more and more Arsenal supporters that filled the train. When we hoped off the tube at the Arsenal stop and the train emptied. Everyone was going to the game so we just followed the crowd. Above ground people were everywhere yelling and chanting. The streets were closed off to autos and packed with people. It was a big migration of Arsenal fans towards the stadium. The atmosphere was phenomenal!

Now my attention turned to tickets so I asked another bloke selling merchandise where I could score some tickets. He said "Tickets" with a laugh, "If you could even find tickets they would cost you a minimum of 250 pounds." Needless to say we didn't get into the game but it was well worth the trip.

I did take a few pictures of the stadium but I was so enthralled by the surroundings I didn't get many. However I was able to take short video which I filmed just after kick off outside the stadium that tries to capture the environment inside the stadium. The video isn't all that great but the sound is. Listen to the chanting from where we were standing it was crystal clear. As I was saying the atmosphere was incredible. I will be back!

Oh and we did see the match but from inside a pub. Pints around.


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Derby Day

Today is Derby Day 133 in KY but not in the UK. Believe it or not most of the British do not know about nor watch our famous Kentucky Derby. Hard to imagine I know...

Anyway hopefully everyone is out and about at a fabulous Derby party drinking a mint julep or some other good ole Bourbon drink. So after the parties are over and everyone cashes there winning tickets catch us up on all of the day's event. Comments and emails are more than welcome.

My money is on Circular Quay.

One more thing. Tell our Queen E Cheerio for us as she made the trip to Churchill downs to take in the sights. In this article about her trip it briefly mentions an upcoming race in Epsom that the Queen will also attend. I work in Epsom and its just down the road from the office. I go by the track every day.