Following on from Spain Portugal and Morocco we travelled to Wales then on to Ireland finishing the trip in London.
Leaving Spain we flew to London where we picked up a rental car. Our plan was to stop at Runnymede and the Ufford whitehorse on the drive to Wales, but as luck would have it, we had our first bad weather of the trip, so we decided not to stop.
We arrived in Wales in brilliant sunshine. From Swansea we drove to Tenby, which is a picturesque seaside town in Pembrokeshire. Gil has been talking about Caldy Island for years, so we caught the ferry boat over to the island.
The next day we had planned to visit Caerphilly, Cardiff and Ogmore, but "best laid plans" so we only made Ogmore Castle and Southern Down. We stopped off for a very tasty pub lunch in the "Pelican In Her Piety" pub at Ogmore village.
Our next adventure was a visit to Caerphilly and Cardiff. Caerphilly is the most wonderful castle. We had visited previously, but because the film didn't wind onto our camera properly we had no pictures. This time we got 'em! Then into Cardiff for a look at Millennium Stadium and to purchase Gil's Welsh Rugby Jumper.
On Saturday we went for a walk at Kenfig followed in the evening by dinner with friends.
Sunday the weather broke. Gale force winds and driving rain. The view from our B&B was amazing 8 - 10 foot waves pounding on the rocks of the sea front. Monday was not bad, but the weather set in again so we sat at our window watching the waves roar in.
Our final adventure in Wales was a visit to Kidwelly castle. We'd originally planned to visit Kidwelly on our trip to Tenby and Caldy Island, but as happens so often, ran out of time. Kidwelly Castle is in quite good repair, so it was possible to climb to the top of the walls and the towers. I thought I had lost Gil as she walked away from me into the mists of antiquity through a gate. Fortunately I was mistaken and when I walked through the gate myself I walked into the same time warp as she had so I didn't lose her at all. We discovered that by going back through the gate we were able to return to the present.
Leaving Porthcawl we drove to Cardiff airport to the Holiday Inn Express. A very basic hotel, but the ideal place to stay in order to catch an early flight. We decided to drop the car back at the airport in the evening rather than risk a major stress attack in the morning should we have difficulty finding the drop off point. A wise decision. We drove into the airport carpark to see a sign advising rental car drop off "get into the right hand lane", which we dutifully did only to find ourselves in the main car park with no sign of any rental car drop off point. It would seem that someone misspelled the word left replacing the l with ri, the e with g and the f with an h. Imagine arriving at the airport at 5am to have to work that out!!
The flight from Cardiff to Dublin was only about an hour. Clearing customs was almost longer than the flight. We were met in Dublin with temperatures in the mid twenties and bright sunlight which was very worrying as we had sent most of our summer clothing home to give us space. fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) that was only for the day of arrival.
Next day dawned cloudy and overcast for our trip to Glendalough (the spelling may be wrong sorry). The abbey there is absolutely spectacular. They did have one thing wrong though. Kevin's kitchen was actually a church. They claimed that they knocked out the original window to extend the church. I had to correct them. It is true it was a church originally, but they didn't knock out the window to extend the church, they were actually putting in a door to convert it to the monastery kitchen.
We had some free time to explore Dublin. Incidentally, it is a bustling, vibrant alive city and we loved it. Leaving Dublin we headed for Belfast. In the evening we had a historic pub walk followed by dinner in a pub just opposite the Europa hotel where we were staying. The Europa has the dubious distinction of being the most bombed hotel in Europe. To finish the evening meal we had an Irish whisky - Bushmills Black Bush, which is rather nice. Discovering the bartender/bar manager was a whisky officianado, we then had on his recommendation a Connemara peated single malt, finishing with a cask strength Glenfiddich single malt. It was distilled in 1964. We were unable to ascertain when it was bottled, so we don't know the age. Regardless it was a very pleasant finish to the evening. Our morning excursion was to the Titanic experience. If you are ever in Belfast if you see nothing else the Titanic Experience is a must.
Leaving Belfast in the afternoon we drive north via Carrickfergus to Ballygally Castle. We didn't see the ghost, but were assured she was floating about somewhere. We spent dinner telling ghost stories which enhanced the atmosphere somewhat. Following dinner we were treated to an evening of Irish music with local musicians. They were very good and even knew quite a number of Irish songs, which was much appreciated since we were in Ireland at the time.
We then headed up the coastal highway, passing Bushmills Distillery to the Giant's Causeway, before driving on to Londonderry. Before I go on I have to apologise for spelling Whisky in the Scottish way. As you are no doubt aware, the Irish (who invented Whiskey) spell it with the "e". As we drove along the coast, we were able to see the coast of Scotland in the distance. It's only about 16 miles away. Not sure if Ireland is off the coast of Scotland, or if Scotland is off the coast of Ireland? We arrived in Londonderry in time for a walking tour. Our Guide Ronan was of Irish/Chinese extraction and claims to be the only Buddhist in Londonderry. He gave a very good insight into the problems that they are facing in rebuilding after the troubles.
The 26th of September is Arthur's Day (Arthur Guinness), so we were forced to have a few pints of Guinness to celebrate. We found a pub just a few minutes away from our hotel that had live music and had a pleasant evening drinking Guinness and listening to Irish music. It's quite amazing how much Irish music is played in Ireland. Leaving Derry we headed back into the Irish Republic via Belleek Pottery. While we don't particularly like the product, the manufacturing process is fascinating and we can understand why it is in such high demand (and so expensive). We then visited Clanalis house for a tour. The rest of the day was spent driving though the beautiful Irish countryside.
Early next morning off on our exploration of Connemara. First stop the Connemara Marble workshop. A beautiful green marble, they use it to make some rather lovely jewellery. Gil and I bought Claddagh rings to go with the Welsh Love rings we bought in Cardiff. Then on across bog roads to Kylemore Abbey.
From Galway we headed of to Limerick with a stop at Bunratty Castle. Great day. In the evening in Limerick we went off to one of the local pubs for dinner and music. Wonderful evening with lots of beers and more Irish music. The weather to this point had been exceptional with little rain, not too much cloud and to the consternation of our tour director, quite a lot of sunshine. To quote our weather man "having said that" the weather changed and for the first time on the trip we had rain just in time for our drive around the Dingle Peninsula.
Finally the long promised rain arrived just in time for our visit to the Ring of Kerry. We stopped first of all at "the Thatched Cottage" for tea and scones and a period of meditation to see if we could avert the bad weather. It worked for a short time! We stopped at Sneem for lunch and then returned to Killarney across bog roads passing through Moll's Gap before a Jaunting Car Ride back into Killarney; the highlight of the day.
At Blarney we all kissed the Blarney stone. I am now even more eloquent than I was before:-)
Final day of our trip and it bucketed down for most of the day. A quick stop at Cahir where we spotted the cannonballs imbedded in the wall of the castle. A stop in Kilkenny for lunch where we sampled Kilkenny Beer. A gallop around the Irish National Stud where we saw Vintage Crop and a number of other retired racehorses. With a visit to the Museum to see the skeleton of Arkle - claimed to be one of the greatest racehorses ever. Obviously because he is a skeleton he doesn't race anymore. He'd fall (apart) at the first fence.
Leaving Dublin we flew to London. Minor disaster on arrival. We saw people heading off towards a lift so decided to take the escalator. As a result we ended up in the wrong arrivals hall sans bags. British Airways to the rescue. I have to say that the British Airways staff are absolutely wonderful. Helpful, efficient and friendly unlike Emirates pathetic customer service.
We finally arrived at Globe View apartments in London at about 5pm. What an apartment!! It looked over the Thames to the Globe Theatre (we should have been tipped off by the name of the building), with a balcony. It had all conveniences and came with a welcome pack of food and other goodies.
As planned we went to the Globe Theatre so see a play, "Blue Stockings". It was a short walk across the Millennium Bridge. We stopped off at a Greek restaurant for Meze plates. It is a pity we were in a hurry, because the food was spectacular. The play was wonderful, assisted by the fact that we were seeing it at the Globe.
Sightseeing in London is best with the London Pass. First stop was a trip to Trafalgar Square (tick off must visit place one) to purchase tickets on the hop on, hop off bus, discounted because we had the London Pass, with a bonus second day.
Every visitor should see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We didn't see the Queen - probably much too busy signing things. There was no sign of Alice or Christopher Robin either. Onto Covent Garden Markets. It's now a craft market and is great. We bought a couple of small items. By that time it was lunch time, so we found a pub close by and sat down for a pub lunch. While we were eating a couple arrived with a dachshund pup which we promptly called Poopy. 14 weeks old and absolutely delightful even if it did cause someone to knock the table and spill beer and cider all over us. That person shall not be named to avoid embarrassment. We finished the day at Harrods food hall where we bought lots of goodies for our evening meal.
Sunday dawned to blue skies and a beautiful day. We caught the tube to Baker St to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum. From there it was back on the tube to Westminster and the Churchill War Rooms. After a pint at a nearby pub (is there a pattern emerging here do you think), we walked up past Downing Street. to the Household Cavalry Museum with a stop at Horseguards to view the changing of the guard, then on to the Guards Museum on Birdcage walk before visiting the Royal Mews and the Queens Gallery. We jumped off the bus at St Paul's and walked back to the apartment. It was still early, so we decided to head off to Camden Town to a restaurant we had planned on visiting to give us the opportunity to try jerked chicken.
Early next morning Gil and I went shopping before heading off to Greenwich for the afternoon. We visited the Observatory. Peter visited the Cutty Sark - Gil and I had visited it previously. We then found the pub where Gil and I got rather pie eyed in 2006, because they had fantastic Ales and Ciders and great food. They still do!!
We finished the day by catching the ferry from Greenwich back to Bank (just opposite our apartment). In our remaining days in London we visited Hampton Court Palace and Windsor.