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Belfast

Today we had our first full coach day and headed north to Belfast, where the Titanic was built. Our group is a nice size – 24, plus tour host (Paul) and coach driver (Gary). Most people on the tour are in their 50’s, with one couple being 40’s, and another perhaps early 60’s. We have a quite large bus, so each person can have their own seat, if desired.

We visited Downpatrick and St Patrick’s grave, Titanic Museum (a must for those interested in ship building or Titanic), and enjoyed an interesting city tour.

In Belfast, a nearby pub, The Crown Pub, was recommended and its ambiance did not disappoint. Little “snugs” held 6+ people for private dining and 4 of us enjoyed our lunch and an assortment of hard cider or Guinness.

The scenery is beautiful – rolling hills, sheep with colored markings to identify who they belong to, crocus blooms popping up in the grass. It is quite cold and locals say a cold front is coming through this weekend. Tonight we are at the Jury’s Inn in downtown Belfast. Although it is considered budget, it is newly refurbished, modern, clean, comfortable, and a perfect location. Around the corner is The Europa and I was able to have a spur of the moment site inspection and check out a few rooms. Very nice and I look forward to sending clients there in the coming months!

Dublin

Dublin, Capital of Republic of Ireland, with a population of over half a million, is a vibrant, exciting city with much to offer. In our 36’ish hours here, my colleague and I  have toured the Guinness Storehouse, Archaeological National Museum of Ireland, seen the Book of Kells at Trinity College, participated in a walking tour of Dublin, visited the Aran Sweater Market, listened to live music in Temple Bar, walked across Ha’Penny Bridge, seen the Spire, Christ Church Cathedral, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and so much more. Today my Fitbit said I walked 15,000 steps and yesterday was over 10,000. That’s good news because I think I may have walked off the sticky toffee pudding we shared yesterday! (In all honesty, I tried to upload a half dozen photos, and the only two that worked were the pudding and the view from lunch at the Guinness Storehouse.) Maybe more later…

Dia dhuit!

Image result for Dia duitAs they say in Ireland, “Dia dhuit!” (Hello!)

A travel agent friend and I leave the USA on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, and arrive in Dublin on Wednesday morning. We opted to arrive a day before the official tour start date to give us extra time for sightseeing in Dublin, not to mention a head start on adjusting to the 8-hour time difference. Our tour is with a highly rated company that I would like to experience first-hand in order to better make recommendations to clients looking for escorted, group travel.

From the brochure: Breathtaking, lush landscapes combined with vibrant cities and historic attractions—all of this and more await you on this Irish Explorer tour, including Northern Ireland. Starting and ending in Dublin, explore Ireland in depth and hear exciting stories of its rich history, legends, and myths. See the 668-foot Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s west coast, offering breathtaking views of rugged cliffs dropping into the ocean. Join the Ring of Kerry, a 100-mile drive with sparkling seascapes and mountains dotted with brightly colored farmhouses. In Northern Ireland, visit awe-inspiring Giant’s Causeway, basalt columns formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions. On the amazingly green Dingle Peninsula—perched on Ireland’s westernmost tip and dominated by the range of mountains—enjoy one of Europe’s most dramatic drives passing seaside villages, ancient monuments, and views of the Blasket Islands. 

You’ll also visit some of its vibrant cities—including Dublin, Belfast, and Galway—and charming towns, including Killarney. Stop in Adare, founded in medieval times and known today as one of Ireland’s friendliest and prettiest villages. In Waterford, enjoy a guided tour of the House of Waterford Crystal, where you’ll see the highly-skilled artisans at work in the production of this famous crystal. You’ll also see artisans at work on your visit to Ireland’s oldest handweaving mill at Avoca. In Northern Ireland, visit Derry, one of Ireland’s best-preserved fortified cities, and Downpatrick, burial place of Ireland’s Patron Saint. 

But first, it’s time to get serious about packing!

Slán… (Goodbye…)

London

Somehow I always have good intentions to blog daily but then get busy…Our tour group was comprised of Danielle, Ron, Charlie, Alex, [Tony], Gloria, Ann, John, and myself. The nice thing about a small group that it creates. By the end of our welcome dinner, below, we were bonded! Everybody brings something to the table and that seems to always be the case with travel groups. After having called/emailed/texted with people for months, it was nice to have faces to put with the names and I am blessed and grateful to have been able to help them plan their travels. 

Other shots below: Abbey Road, a phone booth shot, and Wicked. London is an exciting place with tons to do, but the fast pace becomes exhausting and it’s nice to move on to Liverpool for a bit of a breather…

London Day 1/Saturday 

Dressed in yesterday’s clothes, fresh from being washed in the sink (haha), Tony (tour owner/host) and I headed out to get to know the area where the hotel is.

First stop: famous Portobello Road Market. I’ve been to Portobello Road but never on market day. It was incredibly crowded but also a lot of fun. The vendors were varied, from antiques to jewelry to interesting food (potato chips on a skewer and ginormous cast iron pans of paella. This area is lovely. There are many quaint English houses and the flowers are never ending. We separated and each did our own shopping before meeting back up at the bottom of the street. If not for the crowds making it difficult to see some things, I would have enjoyed staying all day.

We had a quick lunch at busy Electric House Diner where we sat at the counter and watched the cooks. Remarkable how many orders they turned around in the time we were there. After watching them prepare a Philly Chili Cheese Dog, we both simultaneously said “That’s what I’m having.” Delicious!


A good day and a productive one. Tomorrow – more prep for the BeatleTour.

Update: It’s 3:00am and I just received my suitcase. Yay for a change of clothes, makeup, hair straightener! 🤗

Twice in one week???

Is it actually possible to have your bag lost two times in one week? I checked my bags about half the time, and have not had a lost bag in over 20 years. Certainly my “luck” has changed since my bag made it as far as Stuttgart, Germany today where I had a 7+ hour layover. Had I known my bag wasn’t going to be loaded onto the flight to London, I might’ve spent that seven hours in a more productive manner, like tracking down and making sure my suitcase transferred. British Airways gave me a bag that included a very nice extra large men’s T-shirt, and a few toiletries. They assured me my bag will come on tomorrow night’s flight to London.

It’s a little inconvenient, but really not the end of the world.

Tomorrow: the world famous Portobello Road Market. I love this little road and its cute shops and I’m looking forward to visiting the market.

On to London by way of Germany

I’m not sure that it counts as going to Germany when I only sat in the Stuttgart airport. I’m pretty sure that it does not count. But still, I will have breathed air in three different countries by the time I go to bed tonight.

If spending money in an airport counts toward anything, though, then I’ve been to Germany. I treated myself to a nice lunch with poached salmon and an overpriced Coke Zero with no ice. I bought a piece of chocolate and a bottle of water. Add another gift shop in my terminal, I bought cough drops, mints, and a pen. The cough drops kind of sum up how I’m feeling today. I’m not sure what’s going on with my throat but if I felt better tomorrow, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings. Then there was the little shop for the gals ask if they could straighten my hair with your magic straightener. I told them off the bat that I had no more euros and I was not looking to buy anything and if they still wanted to play with my hair, they were welcome to. They straightened my hair and told me this magic straightener was only €129. I told him I appreciated the opportunity and I would see how I like my hair and if I wanted to buy, I would be back. A quick check on Amazon to show that I could purchase the same thing for just under $40 and same day delivery. Sorry salesgirls, but I choose $40 over €129.

Spending such a long block of time in an airport is interesting. Honestly, my head and ears hurt from listening to German announcements and German conversations all day. Nobody here speaks English. I suspect when I go to my gate for the flight to London, the odds will be better. Even with the language barrier, and it is no different, really, then spending time at LAX. You see the same types of people. The frat boys grabbing beer before their flights. Mothers mwith worn out children trying to make the best of travel. Businessmen and women are headed home after a week of travel and making business calls while waiting for their flights. Those of us traveling alone have our eyes focused on electronics. I have walked the length of my terminal countless times and I am anxious to board my last flight. Maybe it will be like my flight from now I guess where I was asleep before they completed the boarding process.

I’m hoping for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow: The world famous Portobello Road Market!