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My travel planning often sends clients (and myself!) to distant European locations: England, Ireland, France, Italy. Other times they head west to the sunny beaches of Hawaii, or the exotic Far East.

As exciting as these experiences are, my most recent travels took me to my home state of Texas. While growing up in Dallas, our family owned a ranch in the Hill Country (Kerrville) where we visited multiple times a year, and where my father took groups to hunt each fall. A year ago, I located the current ranch owners and asked if my three siblings and I could take our father on a weekend trip to re-visit the ranch we had not seen since 1976. The generous new owner, Al W., asked if we would like to stay AT the ranch, in our old house (140~ years old). Such an unexpected treat! “YESSIR!”

The night before our trek, my siblings, father and I congregated in West Texas where our mother graciously hosted a family dinner for us and our father (divorced in 1979, both remarried). An unexpected last minute invitation was extended to Mom and 10 hours later, parents and four kids (we lost my older brother in 1983) were road tripping for the first time in 40 years. Thankfully we were spared traveling in the green station wagon that made the last trek 😂.

No trip to Texas would be complete without an excess of BBQ and we enjoyed a meal at Bill’s BBQ in Kerrville. A last minute message to a Dallas neighbor from the 60-70’s, and soon after, in burst a smiling face with hugs all around.

An hour later, our family stepped inside “our” ranch house and we were each transported back to the simpler days of our youth. The dining room had surely been much larger 40 years ago. A shower had been installed over the tub where our mother hand washed hundreds of diapers, central heat and air added, a new stove, but this was most definitely still our beloved ranch where many of our favorite childhood memories were created.

As kids, we were allowed to have adventures, explore hidden creeks and drink the best tasting water in the world, shoot guns, collect Apache arrowheads left behind by the original ranch owners, catch armadillos, fish under 100~ year old Cypress trees, ride our propane tank ‘horse’, skinny dip in snake-infested waters, feed deer, play with crawdads, pick pecans and apples from the trees our dad planted. We learned where meat came from and ate fresh venison, elk, catfish, bass. We named live guinea hens, only to learn that they would be our dinner that night (and watched the whole process). We got to grow up in the glorious days before technology took over and chained the world to electronics.

Our ranch arrival day gave time to explore, BBQ ribeye steaks to a perfect medium rare, eat family-recipe brownies, share stories until late in the evening, and laugh until we had tears streaming down our cheeks. We all dearly love our ‘grown up families’, but there is something about the original family unit and old memories that nobody else understands.

The original Hudgins gang ❤️

Me and my dad in front of the dam

Me in front of one of the ancient Cypress trees

Doe in a field near the house

Texas fire pit

I will continue sending clients to marvel at the Crown Jewels and cross Abbey Road in London, cruise to Alaska, and take sushi-making classes in Tokyo, but for me, this trip is going down in the books as one of my own personal favorite travel adventures.

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.