Thursday, January 21, 2010


Sunday, September 21, 2003 London and then home

Up about 7:15 am we went down to breakfast on our own about 8 am. The actual breakfast time for our group was scheduled for 8:45 am. We needed to get to the airport between the two scheduled trips so we were on our own. Our sisters and their husbands were each on different flight schedules from us. After breakfast we walked across the street from the hotel and after a short wait caught the Airport Shuttle Bus for only 6 Euros each. Checked in and then waited for our flight scheduled for 12:10 pm. Left right on time and arrived in London on schedule.

Some excitement when before we left as the young man (in his 20’s) sitting directly behind Jim lost his breakfast just before we took off. Have no ideal what his problem was but we were very concerned about germs!

In London we caught the train between terminals instead of the bus. Some trama in making this decision but seemed to be a good decision. We actually had a short wait when we arrived at our destination in the other terminal at Heathrow.

We were in the outside seats with three in our row. The young lady next to the window coughed, sneezed and blew her nose for the whole ten hour flight home. Otherwise it was a great flight. We watched three movies on our individual sets. Bruce Almighty, To Kill A King, and other choices made it so much easier to pass the time.

Arrived home on Sunday evening at LAX about 6 pm and our son Russell was waiting for us; yes, we’d gained back those missing nine hours. I was able to call Russ on my cell phone while we were taxing to the terminal. It was a good thing as after we were inside the building in customs, I could not get service for my cell phone. Russ had come early just incase. It took longer to get our luggage from the airplane than it did to get through customs; basically a walk and showing our passports several times.

Home before 8 pm we were happy to hit the hay in our own beds! And to think, seventeen hours ago we were in Ireland; what a small world we live in!

I hope that you've enjoyed our brief but fun circle around the Emerald Isle; join me in March for a NEW ADVENTURE as we spend three weeks in Spain and Italy this spring....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Saturday, September 20, 2003 Dublin and the Farewell Dinner

It was raining steady; we were able to sleep in until 7:15; breakfast at 8 am and on the bus by 9 am. People are starting to share cards with contact information on them. Gayle and Ron gave us back the European plug adapter that we’d loaned them in Galway. Our first stop was in Kilkenny. The Castle was beautiful but the tour we took was very long; so other than a quick photo shot and a stop at the restrooms; we only had a brief time to walk through the town and a quick visit to St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Blessed Sacrament was out for adoration. That should have made the candles that Barbara and Mary lite even more powerful! They both traditionally like to light candles in a church as reinforcement for a safe flight during trips.

After an hour and a half we were back on the bus for the final trip to Dublin and another story by Bernard. We did our survey for Trafalgar this morning. Bernard said he was going to copy Jim’s brother-in-law John’s survey and turn it in for all of us…John wrote in answer to the question “Did you get value for your money on the trip”…he said “yes; my wife paid for it!”

We arrived back in Dublin about 1:30 pm. Jim headed for the Museum while we settled down in the lobby and worked on photos and the computer until we could get into our rooms. Phil went to McDonalds and got his lunch and milk shakes for Barbara, Mary and Martha! Into our rooms about 3 pm we were able to get an early start on repacking for the trip home. I tried to plug in my charger for the cell phone but knocked off the electricity for all the plugs in the room and also burned out my charger. It was not designed to handle the change of watts! I should have used the converter! Called the desk and they sent someone to reset the switch! But, fortunately, my cell phone was still holding a charge and I hadn’t blown my computer that was plugged in the same outlet!

We left about 6 pm for the dinner show. We were all dressed up and ready for fun. The show was a Traditional Irish Cabaret. It is a show designed to give the tourist a taste of Irish dancing, singing and wonderful sense of humor. Plus we had a very tasty dinner ending with an Irish coffee after dessert. By 11 pm we were tucked into bed for our last sleep in Ireland.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Friday, September 19, 2003 Blarney Castle & Waterford Crystal

We had an early start this morning; up at 6:15 am; luggage out in the hall and at breakfast by 7:15 am. By 8:15 am we were in the bus and rolling. We didn’t have far to drive but Bernard wanted to beat the crowds to Blarney Castle outside of Cork. We were able to walk the 176 steps up to the top without stopping. By the time we were down the crowds were increasing. It’s said that a two-hour wait is not unusual. Phil hit his head as we started up the steep, winding stone steps. Nasty gash resulted. But we all managed to “get the gift of gab” by kissing the “Blarney” stone. On the way back over the bridges to the bus, we toss a coin or two for the reward of returning someday to Ireland.

Our next stop was the Blarney Woolen Mills; the largest of the outlets for Waterford Crystal. Waterford is price protected so you pay the same worldwide; the price difference would be shipping. We found a small duck for ourselves; Mary bought a small covered dish for our sister Betty. Barbara found her bathroom chandelier but since the price was the same at home, she elected to purchase at home and not have to worry about breakage during shipping. Jim found a wax cap to replace the one he left in a restaurant in Austria in 2001; we knew where he’d left it on Sunday evening but we were unable to retrieve it before we had to leave town. It was Monday morning and the restaurant was closed until Tuesday afternoon. Now he has another one. He’d purchased the one he’d lost on our trip to England in 1997.

After a brief lunch we were back in the bus and off by 12:30 pm for a two hour drive for a tour of the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford. Weather today started off early with bright sunshine. We were up in the hills and could look down over the valley full of early morning mist. Then it became stormy to the point that we took umbrellas with us for the walk up Blarney Castle. By the time we were back on the bus the sun was out again even though the skies were still quite cloudy.

The Waterford Crystal Factory in Waterford was very interesting. We were able to see an actual working day with the blowers, the Cutters and the Engravers. Each is very specialized and requires different lengths of apprenticeship over a number of years. No seconds are allowed, all flawed items are broken and the glass is recycled. The store was chocked full of items to purchase and also displays of their trophy items. Our tour started with a wonderful slide show and a display of the ball made for the 2000 New Year’s Eve celebration in New York. Very impressive!

It was raining as we left the factory; me thinks we have seen the last of our Irish sunshine. Arrived at the hotel (without elevators) and found that we were on the 4th floor; a nice walk except when we had our hand luggage. Luggage sorted and in the room we hurried back to the bus for a short trip out to Cheekpoint, a small village in the countryside; for an Irish Pub experience.

We enjoyed the Maggie Butler Pub with music by Enon, Diane and their son Jimmy. We had a pint of Guinness and enjoyed an hour of traditional Irish music. Bernard even joined the group as a fourth with “spoons” on one song. With everyone in good spirits we had a fast and noisy trip back to the hotel…lots of Irish songs were sung by the group!

Dinner was ready so we went straight into the dining room; raincoats and all! Some enjoyed the downstairs Talent Show in the Hotel Pub that lasted until after 2 am. Most of us headed for our rooms and a nights sleep. Pity the ones located above the bar; the music was going till at least 2 am. We heard conversations next door about 3 am, but otherwise it was a good night’s sleep for us.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Thursday, September 18, 2003 Muckross House, Ring of Kerry, Dingle Bay

This morning the weather was overcast with sprinkles here and there as we drove over to the Muckross House for a tour of an old Manor home from the nineteenth century. The last private party to own the house was actually an American heiress whose husband donated it to the government as a museum after her death. One of the most historic previous owners spent six years preparing the house and property for a two day visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Albert actually celebrated his 42nd birthday at Muckross House. The plan was to impress Queen Victoria so much that she would grant a title and possible more land to the family. Unfortunately, Albert contracted Typhoid shortly after the visit and Queen Victoria totally forgot about their visit to Muckross House. The family eventually lost the property due to debt; mostly accrued due to expenses incurred in preparing the home for the Queen’s visit.

Back to the hotel for the part of the group; then off we went for an extra tour of the Ring of Kerry. This was mostly driving with a few photo stops. One was to see the bronze statue of four monks in a sickle shaped boat created in 1995 to commemorate the Augustine Monks on the nearby island of Skellig Michael for 600 years. We had an hour for lunch in Waterville, a village that sits squarely on the coast; Mary and Phil dipped their hands into the Atlantic Ocean and also found a great green rock for me to remember Ireland. We enjoyed fish and chips at the Lobster Pub for lunch during the tour. The area around Waterville was a vacation home to Charlie Chaplin and family; it was said that his daughter Geraldine now calls this area home. It was also a summer vacation once for Richard Nixon. One of our stops was for a view of Dingle Bay. Another one of our stops was for a donkey photo opportunity and great view of mountains, streams and an old bridge!

Rain started in earnest after lunch. Photos through the windows became impossible; too bad, as the views of the coastline were spectacular. Mary and I shared a seat and Jim and Phil each had their own seat. Barbara and John took the day off as they had seen the Ring of Kerry on previous trips.

Back at the hotel by about 4 pm; the rain had stopped and Gerald offered to take those that were interested into town after a quick stop at the hotel. About ten of us decided to stay on the bus for a trip to town. Walked about the shops and then stopped at the Internet Café for a go at the computers. Jim finally was able to sign on and then in Martha’s mail we found two letters from Brian for John and Barbara; something to do with plumbing problems in their house. We had them printed and took them back to the hotel; a short twenty-minute walk from town. No, the bus only took us there and then we were on our own for the return; Gerald said if we got lost, flag a taxi and for five euro they’d get us back to the correct hotel.

We were in the Riverside Hotel just at the edge of Killarney, our home for two nights. We had dinner with John and Barbara, Stuart and Grant; another tasty delight. My chicken looked like Lobster when it arrived. We were close enough to walk back to town for a visit to the pub after dinner; but only a few ventured forth! Washed our hair and watched the new of the Hurricane Isabel hitting the Carolinas and headed for Washington D.C. Even George Bush was sent out of town due to the storm. Estimated 120 mph winds were expected. The hotel has hair dryers permanently stored inside of a dresser drawer. We’ve also had a coffee set in each room; many times that is also inside of a drawer!

So it’s off to bed for a good nights sleep; we have an early schedule tomorrow.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Wednesday, September 17, 2003 Our Front Seat Day (just behind the driver)

Out the door to breakfast by 7:30 am and on the bus by 8:30 am; one has to be a fast eater to survive the schedule! We drove through Enis that is known as an information town. They gave every family in town a computer several years ago. There are about six of these cities being used as test sites for testing individuals ability to work from home.

The freeway is just reaching this area. There was a problem with a Hawthorne bush in the way of the building of the freeway. This particular Hawthorne bush was known to be used for the wee people in this area and no one would remove the tree. Months and nearly twenty five million euros later; the freeway was rerouted around the tree. No construction company would remove the tree!

Our first stop this morning was at the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park located in the town of Bunratty. We toured the castle with Ken as our guide. This was an optional tour and those who elected not to go had the opportunity to do some shopping. The castle was furnished in the 18th to 19th century style; it was very interesting and complete. An individual bought the castle for 1,000 pounds and after restoration gave it to the government. They decided to move some of the old 18th and 19th century homes to the site and created a Folk Park to show tourist how the Irish people lived in those days.

Leaving Bunratty we drove the long route through Limerick to see the ruins of King John’s Castle, the Treaty Stone, St. Mary’s Cathedral and other well-known sites without really coming to a full stop for any of them. It’s a great day to be sitting up front for better views of the non-stop sites that we’re passing through.

We arrived at Adare for an hour of walking about town and having a bite to eat. We did not go through the castle in Adare, but we did see the many old homes with thatched roofs that are now used as little shops for the tourists. There were many tempting woolen items, but decided they took too much room in the suitcase.

On the bus we continued south towards Killarney through one town after another; the sky darkened and ended our bright sunshine weather as the day progressed. On the way into Killarney we made a shopping stop at the Macken of Ireland Shop in Fossa. We were greeted with piping hot glasses of Irish coffee topped with whipped cream. An incentive to buy something I’m sure. Mary found a black Irish woolen square scarf! Now we can be twins! She’d purchased one for me earlier in the trip!

The bus arrived in Killarney about 5 pm….then back on the bus by six for a drive to Tralee for dinner at Finnegan’s Cellar Restaurant. We dined with Mary and Phil; Ron and Gayle; sharing a bottle of wine and lots of good conversation. Bailey’s cheesecake topped off our delicious dinner. Then off across the park to the Siamsa Tire Theatre to watch the Irish National troupe perform a traditional Irish story in Gallic with lots of River dancing set to the story of island people who had to leave for the mainland. Their island is off the southern peninsula; better know as the Ring of Kerry. It was a very quiet bus on the way home. We were about half hours drive each way and arrived back at the hotel just after 11 pm. Good to know that we have a later call in the morning as we stay two days in Killarney.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Tuesday, September 16th, 2003 Kylemore Abbey & Galway Bay

We left the hotel this morning in the rain, but soon it started to clear as we enjoyed a view from the bus window of The Killary Fjord, a long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. This is the only one in Ireland.

Our first stop was at a Benedictine Abbey called Kylemore Abbey. A beautifully restored Chateau and small chapel. Now it is used for a girl’s boarding school. We were only able to tour the ground floor of the Abbey; but it was beautifully decorated and the table was set for dinner in dining room. The setting of the Abbey was on the edge of lovely Lough, or lake as we would say in America. We had a lovely stroll through the woods to the small church on the grounds that was open for us to tour.

The entire day was spent traveling through Yeats country along the lakes and mountains of Connemara. The district is preserved as a National Park and no more homes can be built in the area. We made several photo stops during the day. The road was very twisting and narrow…many times sheep were loose and ambling along the side of and in the center of the road. And, the sun finally came out in the afternoon.

About noon we had our first major shopping stop at Standun Spiddal Company outside of Galway. We were served only drinks and scones as they wanted to keep us shopping. Barbara found a tiny Irish sweater for Kevin’s new baby boy Arden. Jim found a smart green blazer on sale that he couldn’t resist. As we were on the tour if you were over 100 Euro they subtracted the VAT right there in the store. (Jim left his paperwork in the shopping bag that he graciously returned to the clerk after he decided to wear the coat!) We were later billed on the credit card for the VAT after we were unable to mail back the paperwork at the airport in Dublin! So much for saving money!

Back aboard the bus by 1:30 we were on our way to the major city of Galway. Arrived about 2:30; we were on our own until 4:30. Our first stop was a local Internet Café. Found lots of junk emails and a few that we read. [So different from today when we are able to sign on just about anywhere in the world with Wireless.] Walked about the town and then had a turkey sandwich at a Subway near the Tourist Information shop where we stopped for some browsing for post cards. Back to the center of town for the bus by 4:30; we were off to the Galway Golf Course where we had hotel reservations for the night. It was a beautiful place with a view of the Galway Bay and the Championship course designed by Christy O’Connor Junior, a former Ryder Cup player. We settled into our room; rather unusual with a second bedroom with 3 single beds and a kitchenette. The door said suite. Seemingly designed for a family; yet it only had one bathroom. This was our first hotel with actual metal keys; as we left the next morning they made a special request for keys! Seems as though the previous morning the guest left with half dozen of their keys!

Phil and Mary headed for the golf course and a photo session to impress the golf buddies in Indiana. We walked round the hotel and then spent a pleasant hour with Ron & Gayle from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was a nurse working in a school for Handicapped Children and he ran the water department for a town in Michigan.

Instead of dinner we headed toward the forest path and enjoyed a stroll for about half an hour. Found the old area manor house; totally in ruins and nearly covered with vines. They had erected a very tall fence to keep the public out of the ruins. Turned around before we got to the water and headed back to try to catch the sunset over Galway Bay…got there in time but the fog obscured the final dip on the horizon. Off to bed and the end of another day of Irish History and fun.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Monday, September 15, 2003 On the road again heading towards County Mayo

Today we have Seat number 21; we’re getting closer to the front every day! Breakfast at 7:45 am and the bus left at 8:45 am; overcast most of the morning. The sun attempted to shine but too many clouds.

Our first stop this morning was at The Ulster American Folk Park just outside of Omagh. We were there from 10 am to 11:45 am. A very interesting Museum following by a walking tour of actual buildings that were moved into the site; starting with the very earlier Irish homes, up to late 19th Century. The earliest homes had dirt floors and those built at the end had tile floors, and many amenities, but small in size. Then we were in a miniature town representing Londonderry from where most of the immigrants left for Scotland, England, Australia, Canada and America. They even had a live horse in the stables. Then we walked into the loading dock and a “ship” showing the living conditions of the “coffin” ships that they lived on for two to four months at sea. From this area we walked into the “new world” and 19th century in the United States. There were Log cabins, barns, pumpkins & cornfields. A maple tree had leaves that were turning bright red.

We then boarded the bus and continued southwest along the shores of the Louch Erne to the town of Fermanagh and Belleek Factory. Here they make the famous Belleek China and figurines. Had lunch in the cafeteria, spent some money in the gift shop; a Christmas ornament with the Irish Blessing. The actual tour was through a working factory. The people generally apprentice for two to three years and then are paid by the piece. Even Mary, who has been around pottery making for years in Wisconsin, found it interesting.

We were at the Belleek factory from about 1 to 3 pm. As soon as we returned to the bus the rain commenced in earnest as we drove southwest. We had a photo stop at William B. Yeats grave at Drumcliff Churchyard. His wife is buried in the same plot. Her name is George Yeats; she dropped the “i” from her name of Georgie and is known for eternity as George. Here is a bit of his poetry:

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)

Back on the bus, we traveled on through the village of Sligo to see the statute of William Yeats. We also saw many soldiers on duty in the village with rifles. Then off to the main highway and our home for the night: Breaffy House located in County Mayo in the city of Castlebar. Yes…we’re officially out of Northern Ireland as of tonight! Time to put away the English Sterling Pounds and get out the Euro as we’ve arrived in the Republic of Ireland.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Sunday, September 14th, 2003 Londonderry (Derry)

We slept in a bit as breakfast was scheduled for 8 am. Then we were off to downtown Derry or Londonderry to the Protestants; for a walk around the walls with our tour director named Ronon MacNamara. Born of a Chinese mother and an Irish father! About 30 years of age, he had a wonderful Irish sense of humor and gave us a great insight about being a bit different than the average Irishman, a very Caucasian group! When playing Hurling as a young man the announcers referred to him as a “black man” because of his darker complexion.

Saw the few remaining barracks of the British Army…heavily fenced and fortified; yes we are still in Northern Ireland. Large two story paintings on the ends of buildings showing famous scenes from the forty-year war. Many areas are very new as they were heavily bombed during the conflict. About 10 am we split up and went our separate ways to church. At noon we regrouped for a bus ride back to the hotel and lunch. After lunch, Barbara and John elected to stay home and rest, Jim stayed to watch the car races on TV. Mary, Phil and I went for the afternoon spin to the Northern-most tip of Ireland; actually part of the Republic of Ireland. So, it is the southern most northern tip of Ireland.

Our first stop on the Inishowen Peninsula was at the royal seat of the O’Neill clan. It is situated at the crest of the highest hill in the area with a three hundred sixty degree view. It is called Grianan Ailigh. A great stone ring with three levels on the wall. Under the walls exist huge basement rooms used for storage and hiding of woman and children during battles. Heather was abundant on the hill, but rather short.

Our guide for the day continued to be Ronan. The weather was beginning to mist and by our next stop it was a soft rain. We enjoyed a view of the tidelands all the way to the tip. Our stop for refreshments was at Malin. After a queue at the loo…we stopped at the store for an ice cream treat known as a “poke” on the peninsula of Inishowen. As we left Malin we were told that Patty Hearst now lives with her Irish Policeman outside the town of Malin; his hometown. Soon we were at the northern most house that had a view of the Atlantic Ocean. We could see that the weather would be clearing hopefully by tomorrow. A quick photo stop and then back down the Peninsula to our hotel by about 4:30 pm.

We were just in time to watch the last few minutes of the national playoffs for the Hurling Championship! There were nearly 80,000 spectators in the stadium and as Ronan said every TV in Ireland was tuned in for the match! Killarney team won, but it was tight to the very end. They were playing a team from Cory. Our guide had his nose broken three times while playing as a youth; but he said it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as soccer!

Ronan was the youngest son of a large family and came to Northern Ireland to attend the university much to the dismay of his family. He majored in Economics and is now working full time in the tourist industry while studying for a doctorate in Political Science. His wife is an O’Sullivan. (son of one eye) His name is Ronan (Little Seal) MacNamara (of the sea).

Cost to thatch a roof of a cottage is now 20,000 pounds and insurance is much higher. Now only the wealthy can afford to do what was once a sign of poverty! There are lots of golf courses but only the largest ones will allow golf carts due to the softness of the land. So nearly everyone on the golf course is walking! We enjoyed a lovely dinner in the hotel again tonight. Sat with Stuart from Australia, he lives twenty miles from the “Crocodile Man” of TV fame. Grant, a bachelor from Naples, Florida, also sat with us. Then we had our sisters and brother-in-laws along with the sisters from Michigan and New York; a lively group. John told us the history of his Irish family!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Saturday, September 13th, 2003 Belfast to Londonderry (2 nights)

Up at 6:45am with the wake up call…both of us were sound asleep. Breakfast was long as we had a girls’ soccer team in the room with us for breakfast. Jim slept most of the morning as we cruised up the coast towards the north. Weather is more overcast than yesterday; we had light rain during the night; so our long sleeves feel good. The road is along a very rocky coastline…hill on left side of bus and water on right. It was a narrow, curvy road with shear cliffs at times on the left, known as the Antrim Coast. Jim was not the only one sleeping during the drive; several others did the same as there was a wedding reception in the hotel that kept many of the guests awake until after 2 am.

Views of the day included a stop at Glenarm, a seaport village, for a photos and toilets. There were wonderful views of the coast in two directions. Then back on the bus for more of the winding drive along the narrow road hanging to the edge of the cliffs on the Antrim Coast. The road also rambled inland through hills and over bridges across the glens. This area was settled at one time by the Scots and their influence has remained. Had an hour plus for the walk down the winding path to see the Giants Causeway; very much like Devil’s Post Pile near Mammoth Lakes in California. It was caused by lava flows that created huge basalt columns rising from the sea. We walked up and down. Many rode the bus that was provided. Well worth the challenge and then we shared a sandwich and lemon pie for lunch at the snack bar.

Afterwards we continued along the coast to Bushmills to visit the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. We toured the plant and then had a visit to the tasting room. Each group was asked to have two men and two women volunteer for a special Whiskey Tasting of several different types. Martha volunteered, with the assistance and prompting of Jim. Lots of fun! Next on the tour was a visit to Dunluce Castle. It was only scheduled for a five minute photo stop; but after explaining to Bernard about this being Phil’s forefathers home; exceptions were made and they were allowed extra time to actually walk down and inside for a few minutes. Prior to the McDonalds it was the home of the McQuellan on his mother’s side.

Another hour of sheep, heather, bramble bushes, cows and hilly pastures brought us to the town of Londonderry/Derry and our hotel for the next two nights. Yes, we’re still in Northern Ireland but other than still being on English Pounds; the difference is not as apparent as it had been in Belfast. Our hotel is another member of the Hastings family of hotels called the Everglades. This hotel is older than last night but still very nice. Jim is trying desperately to stay awake for a few hours so that he will sleep better. I’ve washed my hair and now will read my book a bit. We had a cocktail hour before dinner tonight. I had another pint of Guinness. Barbara asked for a Virgin Mary and the bartenders could not understand anyone not have alcohol in their drink! We are slowly getting to know the other people in the tour group. There is a large group from Canada, one couple from Australia; and people from all over the United States. Dinner tonight was with Mary, Phil and a couple from Michigan, a couple from Ohio, and two sisters traveling together from around Indianapolis. The food is really good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Friday, September 12th, 2003 Dublin to Belfast

Up early, breakfast and on the bus by 8:15 am. Martha went to her sister’s room before breakfast and found that Mary had on a white shirt and red over blouse. Martha had on a red shirt and white over blouse. Shades of high school…yes, we’re twins! Such fun and provided lots of fodder for conversation during the day! At breakfast we discovered that John and Barbara didn’t get their wake up call until 7 am! We got our calls at 6:15 am. Then they discovered that John was missing his credit cards and driver’s license! Jim went for a walk and the manager was doing the receipts at the restaurant where we’d had dinner the night before. He stepped in and explained that his brother-in-law had lost his wallet the previous night. She found the lost and found envelope and pulled something out…he began to spell their very Irish last name and she smiled and gave it to him. John was so happy that he announced that Jim could do no wrong for the entire trip! Such luck…no one expected the restaurant to be open before we had to leave on the bus! Have I mentioned that both of the brother-in-laws are very Irish and definitely full of the blarney?

Jim and I sat on the left side of the bus across from the other two couples. It was our only day together as unbeknownst to us they would have us move one seat back each day. They rotated together as we moved further and further away. We left for Northern Ireland with a stop across the boarder for tea and scones at 11 am in Warrenpoint; a bathroom stop and chance to exchange some money. Euro in Republic of Ireland but English control Northern Ireland still uses Sterling Pounds. Our driver’s name is Gerald and the tour director is Bernard. He’s got a great sense of Irish Humor and talks most of the time. One of the guests asked a question (rocky fields’ verses green) and he really took her to task for interrupting his flow of Political History with a question about agriculture! Certainly kept the rest of us from straying from Bernard’s topic of conversation! We crossed over the Boyne River, famous for a battle, continued on entering the Ulster area. Made a stop in Downpatrick to visit the church and graveyard where St. Patrick is buried. Norma, a local guide gave us a nice history of the church. Sun came out by the time we arrived at Downpatrick; it is much warmer than we’d expected.

Arrived in Belfast about 3 pm and picked up a local tour guide, Hilda, who gave us a running history of Belfast as we drove about the town. She pointed out many examples of things that still have not changed from the days of conflict that only ended a couple of years ago. Many of the walls are still topped with barbwire and there are military guardhouses in many areas. We then stopped for a short visit at Queen’s University. Mary & Phil found a wonderful enlarged photo of Dunluce and Barbara convinced them to purchase it. At 4 pm we stopped in the center of town near the City Hall for an hour and half of free time to explore the City Hall and central shopping area. By 5:30 we were on our way back to the hotel. We checked into the Stormont Hotel, a member of the Hastings chain, that is located on the edge of Belfast. We found it to be a very nice four star hotel. King size beds, twins put together was a nice change from the double bed of the night before. We quickly changed for 7 pm dinner where we sat with fifteen of our fellow passengers. Jim and I both had a wonderful broccoli soup, chicken dinner and nice dessert. News at the table was that the country singer, Johnny Cash had died. Also dead of an unknown heart condition was the popular John Ritter, only 54 years old. Jim went straight to sleep by ten but woke at 2 am and stayed awake most of the night. He even went out for a three-mile walk about 5 am. He couldn’t get into the park surrounding the government Parliament building across the street from our hotel as the gates were locked during the night. .

Monday, January 11, 2010


Our flight to Ireland had several bumps….our neighbors Dave & Shari drove us to the Bradley Terminal at LAX in our van….gas is very expensive right now…anywhere from $2.09 to $2.20 per gallon [that sounds really cheap today!]. We arrived at LAX about 5 pm. British Air had their ex-ray machine down so we were shuffled into a line for Quantas that was full of college kids on their way to Europe for School. We finally got through the process of checking in and settled down for a quick bite at McDonalds in the food court before going through the final check-in point.

The waiting room was nearly empty when we arrived about 6:30 pm. By eight the students were all there and the noise level was deafening. When they announced the seats for boarding they actually had to make them quiet down so the announcements could be heard. Jim was sure that we would have a terrible flight with no sleep. Actually, after a very nice and unexpected dinner; the cabin became very quiet and we had the best sleep ever on a flight to Europe. Arrived in London at 3 pm; a ten plus hour flight and nine hours lost! Immigration was a breeze and we didn’t have to collect our luggage until we arrived in Dublin.

After a long walk to the Transport we then had a thirty-minute wait for a bus behind a large group of Japanese students. Arriving at the transport area; we had another wait for a second Passport inspection. Then, after a very fast run-walk down a very long corridor we walked directly on the airplane!. So happy we had wheels on our carryon luggage. We were winded and sweaty by the time we got to our seats. Had not made a bathroom stop between planes and that was the first stop for Martha before sitting down on the Aer Lingus Airplane. We were in the air on time by 5:05 and arrived in Dublin on time at 6:05 pm.

We picked up our luggage and walked straight out into the waiting area to the arms of Barbara and John who had arrived an hour earlier. They had found our driver “Willy” who had been sent by Trafalgar to bring us to the hotel in Dublin. He was a very Irish, delightful man about 57 years old. He told us lots of information including the fact that the American CIA, FBI, etc. were here in Ireland studying the methods that the Irish use to trace the money of drug dealers.

Our hotel for the night in Dublin was The Gresham Hotel; a four star; located in downtown Dublin. We found our rooms and the bulletin board for the tour. The welcome drink has been postponed so we took to the street and had a very Irish dinner at a restaurant named Flanagan’s, complete with a pint of the Irish Guinness; a very dark beer that tends to be rather strong. After initial pouring it has to set about 5 minutes and then they top it off. Enjoyed a short walk afterwards to the river with a stop for shopping; Barbara needed some black shirts. I took a great photo of green lights under the bridge and felt that I really was in Ireland!

Off to bed early with a scheduled 6:30 am luggage call in the morning. We had checked on Mary and Phil when we arrived; no one answered when we knocked on their door so we put a note under the door before leaving for dinner. Before retiring for the night, we knocked again with no response. We found out the next morning that they’d gone to bed at 5 pm after enjoying the bus tour of Dublin during the afternoon. They’d arrive early in the morning and had taken advantage of the scheduled tour of Dublin by Trafalgar Tours.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

IRISH EXPERIENCE - September 2003


During a three month European Trip in 2002, a yen for relatives conjured up a plan to travel to Ireland in 2003 with my sister Mary and her husband Phil along with Jim’s sister Barbara and her husband John. We quickly sent off emails and found that both were open to the plan! Both of our brother-in-laws are Irish!

Returning home that fall, I traveled to Indiana for a few weeks with my family and to give our 24/7 marriage some breathing room. Working with my sister we soon had plans formed for a tour. Our first choice was a Rick Steves Tour but after discovering that in-suite rooms were not guaranteed; we found another tour that handled the luggage and guaranteed a toilet in each and every room! Plus it made a stop at Dunluce Castle on the Northern Coast of Ireland; a must for Phil as his mother’s ancestors hailed from there.

Reservations were made on December 27th with Trafalgar Tours through Auto Club Travel Services. Jim’s sister arranged their plane reservations as they were staying over a few extra days in London on the way home. My sister would fly by way of Atlanta Georgia and we would have a non-stop trip over Canada. It would be an eleven-day trip with three days of travel!

Leaving in the late evening on September 10th we arrived in Dublin in the late afternoon on September 11th, 2003. Flying home will seem shorter as we gain back the nine hours that we lost on the way over.

2003 Irish Experience