Ireland: Part 1

Friday, 22 June 2012

Ireland: Part I

From Wales we took the ferry to Dublin, Ireland. We rented a taxi to take us to our car rental agency. The taxi was set up with three seats facing forward and one facing backwards. I got the full effect Marylou’s going through the safety procedures and pointing to the exits in case of emergency.

We drove from Dublin to Kilgorglin where we rented a cottage for the next three nights. It was so nice to have a base for several days so we did not have to pack up every morning. This was the scene from our front door! Wow!

Wednesday morning we had pancakes, eggs, and fresh fruit for breakfast. We spent some time singing (all four of us LOVE to sing and Lois brought along copies of some of her favorite songs) then Lois talked a little on ‘God’s Kindness.’ We left around 10am and found a bank to get money changed from pounds into euros. The cashier that changed money for me was helping the cashier in charge of changing money. I nearly had a heart attack when she asked me the following question: “Are you over 60?” Uhm, do I look over 60? While we were in town we stopped at the library use the internet. Beside the library was the tourist information office. I was walking into the office just as Marylou and Ruby were walking across the street to the bank. The lady in the office was quite chatty. She said to me, “I see you are wearing a dress and your two friends are also in dresses. Are you triplets?”

The remainder of the day we made the trip around the Ring of Dingle making stops along the way to see interesting things. On Inch Beach there were these things that resembled go-carts but they had sails and were used for cruising on the beach. They looked like SO MUCH FUN!

We stopped at a ‘famine cottage’ that showed how the Irish would have lived during the famine. Lois and Marylou were especially interested in this. Their fifth generation ancestor, Catherine Dunne, was a little girl when she and her parents took their family across to America. Enroute, her parents died and Catherine was fostered by an Amish family.

Our car automatically whipped into the parking lot of this little house with a sign in front advertising fresh coffee, tea, scones, and pie. And what a cute place it was! It appeared that a lady converted the ground floor into a little cafe. A fire in the fireplace would have completed the cozy feel.

 

Another stop was at the Gallarus Oratory. Built 7th or 8th century, it is one of the best preserved Irish churches. For a while we were the only ones there so we sang two songs inside the tiny church, “A Might Fortress Is Our God” and “Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace.” The acoustics were excellent which makes singing all the more fun!

 

Thursday morning we left soon after 8am and took the ferry to the Cliffs of Moher.

I was especially impressed with how the architects designed the restaurant and gift shop. Brilliant!

In the evening we toured the Bunratty Castle in County Claire and took in a medieval banquet. After the meal, the servers, who also doubled as the entertainment (and yes, they do have to audition before they are hired), sang beautifully for us.

Friday we toured Mucross House, a furnished mansion built between the 17th and 18th century.

My highlight of the day and maybe for all of Ireland was our visit to a working sheepdog farm. After watching the farmer’s hired hand shear sheep, the farmer took us to the hillside and set three of his five sheepdogs into action rounding up a flock of sheep into the pen. Oh my goodness! I was totally in awe! Each dog has a separate word for the same action. For example: every dog has a different word for ‘go right’ or ‘stop’ or ‘behind.’ If every dog had the same word they would each do the same thing. The farmer has to remember the set of commands for every dog. I was especially impressed with the absolute obedience of every dog. The farmer told us that his sheepdogs will only listen to him. In the same way, his neighbor’s sheepdogs will only listen to their master. Another interesting thing he told us was how he would ” be a fool” to leave his dogs unattended with the sheep. He called his dogs “trained wolves.” Unattended the dogs could wreak havoc in a flock of sheep and ruin his flock.

** I have a short video of the action. Whenever I can figure out how to upload it, I will.**

We took the scenic trip home and had a interesting time albeit not in the positive sense. The roads were already narrow and winding with no shoulders. We came upon a large group of bikers going the same direction as us. Even when a girl fell down, there was nothing her fellow-bikers could do because there was no place for them to stop. For supper Marylou made her famous bean burgers with a sauce made of mayonnaise, cilantro, and tomato. In Wales we were introduced to ‘mushy peas’ a mixture similar to zipper peas, lima beans, and English peas all cooked well then slightly mashed. We found some canned mushy peas which were not too far from what we had eaten earlier. I’ve always kind of been suspicious of bean burgers; however, Marylou’s fabulous entrée ditched that preconceived idea to the curb. They were fantastic and the sauce was so good that, as the saying goes, the half has not yet been told.

New saying: ‘Go small’ for ‘slow.’

By this time, our driver and navigator were so proficient at driving on the left side of the road. While I was glad for them, I kind of missed the entertainment. silly

To be continued!

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Yorkshire, London, and Wales

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Tuesday

After a hearty breakfast of biscuits, gravy, scrambled eggs, and juice made in our “self-catering flat kitchen”,

we struck out for James Herriot country aka Yorkshire. After the previous days meanderings going through the Dales National Park in ‘The Lakes’ area I could hardly imagine any sight more stunning. We motored along the edge of “The Moors” and wondered if this area was the inspiration for The Secret Garden in which Frances Hodgsen Burnette refers to ‘the Moors.’

Our first destination was the little town of Thursk which houses the James Herriot museum. This museum rivals the Beatrix Potter for originality and interesting. The museum is located in the house in which he lived while working as a veterinarian in Yorkshire. The house/museum is set up in such a way that it literally appears that Herriot still lives there. A wax figure of him sitting on the sofa with newspaper in hand appeared to be so real that even I felt a bit spooked!

The medicine cabinet is stocked with medicines and gauzes for animals and the dining room table is set for dinner. It really appears as if he just left for an afternoon stroll and would be back soon.

After leaving the museum, we walked across the street to St. Mary’s church, the place where Herriot and his wife were married and a church that built around the fifteenth century. A group of volunteers was more than happy to give us the history of the church. We had been looking for a church/abbey in which to sing and, while it did not have superior acoustics, we found this church to be a great place to sing and not disturb other visitors or parishioners. We sang “How Great Thou Art” and a verse of “Lift Your Glad Voices.”

On our way back to Skipton, we saw signs for Yorkshire Dales Ice cream. Upon pulling in the drive, all four of us were suprised to see the child’s playground equipment that appeared to be Amish-made. Once inside the ice cream shop/diner, the owner came up and introduced himself. He spends several months out of the year in America. And yes, the playground equipment was Amish made. He had seen some in America and wanted to find the producer himself instead of working through a middle man. He traced the line all the way to an Amish man in Lancaster, E Beiler! Who would have guessed that we would find Amish playground equipment in a little ice cream shop/diner in the middle of Yorkshire!

To end the day we stopped at Bolton Abbey which was an absolute feast for the eyes. I cannot tell you how full my heart was after seeing the beauty of the abbey, the tall trees with sheep grazing contentedly, the panoramic view of greens and blues mixed with perfect hues.

Wednesday

Lois and ML took back the car while Ruby and I waited at the train station with ALL our STUFF! It took a while to find our flat since the Brits have a confusing rail system. It wasn’t until the day before we were to leave that it was discovered that there are underground trains, above ground trains, and the tube (subway.)

We walked quite a ways on Brockley Rd. until we found Mr. Lawrence’s winery. Mr. Lawrence, the proprietor of our flat) helped us carry our things up the four flights of thirty-seven steps. After all the walking, the thirty-seven steps may have been two hundred thirty-seven! We got lunch from the little café next door: chicken and chips for R, and domar kebabs for L and ML, and fish and chips for me. I’m officially hooked on eating vinegar with my chips (fries). After a late lunch, we made our way towards St. Paul’s Cathedral for their Evensong. It was a beautiful service with a men’s choir and then a sermonette by a visiting vicor. Visiting St. Paul’s during an evensong meant that we could get in for free. The church is ornate beyond what I can describe! I tried to memorize its beauty and I want to do research on the cathedral when I return home.

After the evensong, we set out to discover London! We were too late to tour the Tower of London so instead we walked along boardwalk that borders the Thames River and walked over the London Bridge. We never saw so many joggers in our life! Many of them wore backpacks which we concluded held their work clothes.

I was intrigued by the taxis. We wanted to take a ride just for the nostolgia but it never happened.

Thursday
we took a bus tour that gave us an overview of the city. I found it especially fun to see so many buildings about which I have only read. We stopped off at
Buckingham Palace and joined the masses to watch the changing of the guards.

While we were there, Queen Elizabeth II hosted a lunch for heads of state in honor of her Diamond Jubilee. We were sure if she would have only KNOWN we four were in London she would have WANTED to invite us to come. In the afternoon we took a boat tour followed by a tour of the Tower of London. We attempted a tour of the British Museum but it was already closed. It takes a long time to get anywhere in London.

Friday we took a bus trip that went to Stonehenge, Cottswalds, Bath, and Strattford-on Avon which was William Shakespeare’s birthplace. Our tour guide is a topic in and of itself. He kept us in stitches with his arrogant/self-depreciating humor. And he gave us a list of words to pronounce the British way so that “you won’t embarrass yourselves.” His name was “Allen” but he would only answer to “Handsome” or “Handsome Allen.”

Stonehenge: I found it interesting to learn that very possibly Stonehenge was a way to keep track of time i.e. days and months.

The pool at Bath (pronounced B-ah-th; as Handsome Allen would say, “Get it right. Don’t be embarrassing yourselves!”

Saturday
morning we had to be out of our flat by 11am yet our train did not leave until 3 or so. We would have loved to have seen either the inside of Westminster
Abbey (we saw the outside on the bus tour) or Harrods (again, we only drove past it); however, it would have cost around $40 to store our things at the bus
station plus the tickets to the Abbey. We opted for a late morning instead. We took the train to Wales. Just when I think I have seen the most beautiful landscape ever created, we round the bend and there is more! I love the UK! We nearly missed our train station because the way Welsh words are written and how they are pronounced are quite different. We walked from the train station to the city of Conwy. There is a castle in Conwy (pronounced “CON-way”). Three sides of the castle walls border the small town; the Conwy River borders the rest. It is a cozy, sleepy little fishing village that has the reputation of grabbing one’s heart and not giving it back. Our host from the B&B picked us up and gave us a quick tour of Conwy. We found a little fish and chips restaurant for supper.

Our B&B in Wales:


Sunday morning we walked to Conwy to the St. John’s Methodist Church for church. We had been told by our B&B hostess that there is an American woman who married a Welsh and they attend St. Johns. She did not know we were coming but still she met us at the door. Sylvia’s maiden name is Wenger. She came to Wales for an extended vacation and met her future husband Peter Jones. They married nine years ago. ironically, she wrote a book titled, “No, I Live Here” in response to all the Welsh that asked if she was in Wales on Holiday. She invited us to stay at the church for their fellowship meal in honor of their pastor that was leaving. Our plans for the afternoon were to go to the Bodnant Gardens with the purpose of having some solo time. A misunderstanding with our driver prohibited us from getting bus tickets so we spent solo time in the city of Conwy. The city of Conwy is located along the Conwy River. There were plenty of places to spend time alone whether it be sitting along the river bank, touring the castle, sitting in a coffee shop or walking what is left of the walls that used to surround the city.

This is me trying to take cool pictures like Marylou #1:

We ended the day by walking across the bridge and watching the sunset. This is me trying to take cool pictures like Marylou #2:


Monday morning we left early for the Victorian village of Betws-y-Coed (bets-ee-coid.) We found a little bakery where we purchased pastys (meat filled pies) and
pastries.

A beautiful church with excellent acoustics was opened and empty so we stepped inside and sang “There is a God.” After some successful picture taking and shopping, we took train further to Blaenan Ffestiniug where there is an old slate mine that is no longer in use. We took the tour that takes one 400 feet deep into the mine. This is a mountain (or as they would consider a hill) of discarded slate. It seemed like such a waste of raw materials.

We came back to Conwy starving hungry! When we left Sylvia on Sunday, we agreed to connect Monday evening about getting together that evening. We called to invite her to meet us for supper; however, she had planned to host us for supper and already had it ready. We enjoyed our evening with her and Peter.

They are both award winning photographers and showed us a collection of photographs they put to music on a DVD and each won a prize. The quality was superior!

I left my heart in Wales and for good reason. While shopping at a store in Edinburgh, I came across family names and their tartans. I saw the name ‘Jones’ and thought maybe it was my bloodline as my maternal grandmother was a Jones. While visiting with some women from Scotland, I made mention of my query. One of them said, “Oh no, ‘Jones’ is a Welsh name. You know the actress Catherine Zeta Jones? You might be related to her.”

Do we look like long-lost relatives? Don’t be hatin’ now!

                      imdb.com

‘Jones’ is a very popular surname in Wales. Sylvia told us that the surname ‘Jones’ takes up forty-one pages in the phone book!

Several panoramas of Wales (An attempt to be Marylou #’s 3&4.)

THis was looking inland towards the castle and the mountains:

And this one is looking out onto the Conwy River.

In a postcard to my parents I wrote, “It’s not ‘if’ I return to Wales; it is ‘when.’

I am so thankful to have such wonderful, steady ladies with whom to travel. We are still having a great time! I can hardly believe my time is nearly half over. So many of my dreams have come true; however, I realized the disappointing fact that for my dreams to come true in London, I would need a personal tour guide with whom I could ask questions and it would probably take around a year. Maybe when I’m eighty??? It never hurts to dream! This trip in itself proves that dreams do still come true!

UK: May 13-5

Friday, 18 May 2012

UK: May 13-15

While in Scotland, Adam, Marta and family took us to the Highlands which are in the northern part of Scotland. The Highlands are absolutely majestic! Every time I thought I’d surely seen the most beautiful sight, another sight of splendor came into view. We hiked several miles back into the glen. We came home dead tired from a perfect day of hiking.

Here is the family with whom we stayed: L-R: Janek, Marta, Gosia, Adam, Tomek, and Hania. They took the absolute best care of us and showed us Scottish hospitality!


Sunday we went with Adams to their Sunday services. What a welcome we received! Everyone was so warm and welcoming and treated us like royalty! A had warned us the first day we were there that we four would be asked to sing two songs on Sunday morning. We four love to sing and Lois had the foresight to bring along sheet music of her favorite songs. Sunday morning we sang “God is Great, God is Good, God is Merciful” and “Be Thou My Vision.”  After the service, a gentleman came up to me and put a L20 note in my hand. “I enjoyed your singing so much. Get yourselves some coffee on the train.” We added the twenty pound note to the one hundred dollars Marylou’s boss gave us to do something special.
After the service, tea and biscuits (cookies) were served in honor of a lady from the church that recently turned eighty as well as in our honor. All four of us thoroughly enjoyed talking with the church people afterwards. They Scottish brogue was thick and charming! Adam and Marta brought lunch along to the church so we could go straight to the train station. At the train station we met a gentleman from Adam &Marta’s church who works on the trains. He sat with us and helped us make the connections  at the next station. Adam, Marta, and family got our excursion off to a great start and we enjoyed being with them so much. We felt so honored and taken care of. Marta’s mother (from the same Eastern European country that Adam & Marta are originally from) lives with them and, through an interpreter, told us stories of living through WWII.
Scottish food we ate while at Adam & Marta’s: Haggis. When I heard Lois and Adam talking about haggis (pronounced HOG-eese), I asked what it was. Adam started laughing and said, “Uh-h, we’ll tell you after you’ve eaten it!” Oh boy! It was served to us along with mashed potatoes. One bite told me it was in the same “family” as puddin’ meat or scrapple. I decided it wise to not ask to see the ingredients until AFTER it was safely down my throat. The ingredients list haggis as being pork liver, pork heart, and something else pork all mixed with oatmeal, chopped onion, and seasonings. We also tasted Melamite, a spread made with yeast and spices. Marta made this wonderful cheese that resembled a mixture of cream cheese and cottage cheese. We drank a lot of tea and learned that the flavor of tea is changed if hot milk is poured into the teacup first then the tea.
Scottish Words/Phrases:

Hair clips… hair grips

Back pack… ruck sack

Mountains… hills (i.e. what we could call mountains they
consider to be hills)

‘for rent’… ‘to let’

Thank you…. Cheers

To pass… to overtake

Small valley… glen

Dead end alley… close

Creek… burn
Waiting for the train as we were leaving Scotland and enterring England.

On the train, we crossed from Scotland into England. We saw sights like this the whole entire train ride. Everywhere we looked was lush, green fields, miles of stone fence, and sheep!  Sheep are EVERYWHERE in Scotland and in England! We have seen some cattle but we see mostly sheep. I was absolutely mesmerized by the absolute beauty of these English country sides.  They are exactly as I imagined them to be… only these are real and not figments of my imagination.

We exited the train in the quaintest little town in northern England. We walked from the train station to the apartment we rented for several days.

While the front of our little apartment did not look like this, these were the type of houses we passed as we walked the streets of Gargrave, England. We stayed here for three nights and took day trips. it was so nice to leave our ‘stuff’ put for several days without schlepping it around!

Lois and Marylou are experienced travelers and have done SO WELL with getting us from place to place. Leon Zook loaned us his European GPS which has been an absolute lifesaver especially when we rented a car. Lois drove and ML navigated and together we explored all around northern England.

It was nearly 11:30am until we left Morecambe with our rental car and were ready to explore for the day. Our first destination was the Lake District National Park area which houses Windermere, Hawkshead, and Keswick. Windermere and Hawkshead is Beatrix Potter country. We stopped in at Hilltop Farm where she vacationed and wrote her children’s books. Keswick was an absolutely charming town at the base of a high, picturesque mountain. It reminded me of Banff. We stopped for coffee and pastries. The latter part of our day we drove a winding, narrow road to Yorkshire which is James Harriet country. The majestic beauty! The hills! The shades of green! I was in absolute
awe of God, our Creator! “How Great Thou Art!” And to think this is only a foretaste of heaven!

Here are some panoramas of Dales National Park. Marylou, the expert, showed me how to create panoramas using photo stitch. My life will never be the same! Then the other day I learned to edit the lighting in my pictures. After one panorama turned out especially beautiful:

Me: I feel just like Marylou!!!

Lois: No-o-o-o! Not another one!

We saw so much of these fields. What appears to be winding paths is actually stone fence. I would love to know how many million stone have been used to build houses and the thousands of miles of fenceline.

Marylou does excellent with giving driving instructions via the European GPS. We have laughed ourselves silly at the driving experience. Except for the M roads (motorways that are similar to our interstates), the roads are very narrow and winding, with no shoulder and with a stone fence on either side. At one point the road was so winding and narrow that when we met someone in the corner, we had to back up until they were able to get their car past us. We laughed so hard at this new venture; most of the quips were only funny if you were there to hear them; however, here are a few:
Lois: “If you need to file your nails simply put your fingers out the window.”

We were approaching a Y in which the left side went straight and the right side merged into a round-about. The GPS was slow to give instructions. Lois: “Marylou, WHERE DO I GO?” Marylou: “Uh-h-h, I’ll let you know later.” And she did let us know later after we made a long circle, turned around in a farmer’s lane and came back around the second time.
Marylou to Lois: Slow down!

Lois: Am I driving dangerous?

ML: No, but I am against the wall!
Around lunchtime, we stopped at a small town before taking the ferry over to Beatrix Potter’s farm. We sat on some benches by the water. A large number of swans thought we were there to feed them. They came right up to us and plopped down like cows and flat out refused to leave! Literally, we could have reached out and touched them.

Lois:  “Do you think we look alike?”

Now do you understand why I laughed so hard  I thought I’d never breathe again? What fun girls to travel with!

We saw this sign as we waited on the ferry to take us to the Potter farm. Yikes!

While we were waiting:

Me: I think I’ll take a nap ‘cause I won’t miss anything exciting.

ML: Well, not if we have the right change.
English phrases we have learned:
20% struggle… 20% upward grade

Give way… yield

Car hire… car rental

Pun of the day:
Ruby: Would y’all please pose for a picture?

ML: We could but that may pose a problem.

Word of the day:

‘Schmutzheimer!’ ML’s reaction when Lois hit a pot hole in
the farmer’s lane as she was turning around… again.

But then again, we are going through a lot of
‘turn-arounds.’ Someday I’ll remember them as ‘round-abouts’ instead of ‘turn
arounds’

At the Dales National Park.

We are having SO MUCH fun!!!!! I am so thankful to God for allowing my dream to come true!

Scotland

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Scotland

THis top and bottom is the view out of our hosts front window!

We visited the little village of Culross, which is located along the North Sea.

The narrow, cobblestone streets were so quaint.

Inside Culross Abbey

One afternoon the children played piano for us and we sang for them.

This was one of my bad pictures from Edinburgh but I still wanted to prove that I was at the Edinburgh Castle from the days of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Scottish Parliament Building

We ate at a Kurdish restaurant not realizing that the cheaper places to eat were on the opposite end of the Royal Mile.

Cafe with caramel flavoring!

Today we and our hosts spent the day hiking in the Highlands. More pictures to come. It’s rained every day so far and is colder than I anticipated. However, we are having the absolute BEST time!