And so my first every trip off the continent has come to an end. I have many blog postings1 about my various adventures that I will post over the next week or so – tales of castles and churches and cemeteries and more castles and more churches and pirates2. I have much newfound knowledge about my motherlands3, and new jewels and artwork to show you.
I am also pleased to report that, as planned, I knocked not just one, not just two, but THREE items off my 101 list:
55. leave the continent
12. re-read Momo
13. re-read Johnathan Livingstone Seagull
Moreover, within a space of 24 hours4 I set foot in 4 different countries! That’s the same number of countries that I’d been to in my ENTIRE LIFE prior to this trip5! I also looked at Italy while I was in Monaco, but since I was there on a tour, I couldn’t just pop over. If I’d been driving myself, I totally would have, just to say I’d been.
As a teaser, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:
- Aug 2 to 5: 4 days in London, England, galavanting with my mom, my Aunt Eileen, and my Aunt Lynn. Highlights include: the London Eye, cruising the Thames, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace6, Houses of Parliament, museums galore, Harrod’s.
- Aug 6: Arrived in Ireland! Stayed in our first castle hotel: Dunboyne Castle. Met the rest of our tour group.
- Aug 7-8: Stayed in our second castle hotel: Kilronan Castle. Visited the town of Kells (where the famous Book of Kells is from), the Holy Well & Mass Rock at Tobernalt, saw W.B. Yeats’ grave, Donegal Bay, Glenar Waterfall, Parkes’ Castle, Trim Castle, and took a boat ride on the Rose of Innisfree
- Aug 9-10: Stayed in our first non-castle hotel of the Ireland portion of our trip7: Connemara Coast Hotel. Learned about making textiles at Foxford Woollen Mills, how to shear a sheep at Rathburn Farm8 ,9 (not to mention having some delicious tea and scones10 ), and how to make marble at the Connemara Marble Factory11. Stopped for lunch at a Tim Horton’s in a gas station12. Saw Kylemore Abbey, Galway Cathedral and dipped my feet into Galway Bay. For our last night at Connemara we had a private show by a harpist who also plays at the Cliff of Moher.
- Aug 11-12: Stayed at the Malton Hotel in Killarney. The absolute highlight was the stunning Cliffs of Moher, but other cool stuff included a ride on the Shannon Ferry, a jaunting car13 ride through Killarney Park, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kerry Bog Village, and some fantastic lamb stew at the Thatched Cottage Restaurant. Also, we stopped to shop at Moriarty’s and inadvertently left my Aunt Lynn behind! Once we realized what had happened, we turned the bus around and picked her up – though she was flirting with a bus driver from another tour group when we got there – I don’t think she actually wanted us to come back! Another awesome part of the Killarney days was that the hotel we stayed in was right in town (others had been further out), so we could go out to pubs at night and listen to all the live music.
- Aug 13: Stayed in the Faithlegg Hotel (at a golf course). Blarney! Spoiler alert: I kissed the Blarney Stone14! So did my mom and both my aunts. It’s pretty freaking high up and you have to hang over an edge15 and arch backwards to do it. Also of note in Blarney, I bought a painting from a local artist. Actually, wait, no – my Aunt Eileen bought me a painting from a local artist, because she kept insisting on buying me stuff for my birthday. lol! Also went through Cork’s English Market, and had Murphy’s Irish Stout at the the Marine Bar
- Aug 14-15: Clontarf Castle, Dublin. We learned how to make crystal at the Waterford Crystal Factory, and more about how to weave at Avoca Woollen Mills, visited the Dunbrody Famine Ship, had some fish & chips at Leo Burdock’s Fish & Chips and listened to more live music and watched Irish dancing at the Arlington Hotel. Learned how to make whiskey at the Jameson Distillery, where I became a certified Irish whiskey taster16. Visited the Garden of Remembrance & the Glasnevin Cemetery17, a super cool statute of Oscar Wilde18, some museums19 and had dinner at Abbey Tavern where there was, again, music and dancing.
- Aug 16: still at Clontarf Caste. Due to a screw up by the travel agent, we were booked to fly out of Dublin the day after the tour ended, instead of the day of, so we stayed on an extra night at Clontarf and explored more of Dublin on our own. Checked out Trinity College, Dublin Castle, the General Post Office20 and a bunch of statues.
- Aug 17: Traveled to Nice! Had a stopover in Zurich, Switzerland, meaning by the end of this day I’d set foot in 4 of the 5 countries planned for this trip. Checked into my hotel – the Hotel Boreal – grateful to be staying in a single hotel for more than 2 nights in a row! Headed to the beach for an evning stroll.
- Aug 18-20: A series of days of strolling through the town checking out all the interesting streets and shops and whatnot, and going to the beach. Actually did more of the former and less of the latter than I thought I would21. Ended every night on the Promenade des Anglais to watch the sun set.
- Aug 21: Half day trip to the village of Eze and to Monaco! Absolutely gorgeous! Learned how to make perfume at Fragonard, saw Grace Kelly’s grave, and followed the race circuit for the Formula One world championship held in May every year in Monaco.. Plus, I went with a little tour group – 7 of us in all – and it was really nice to be around such friendly people22. I’d been getting a little lonely only talking to either salespeople or creepy men who were trying to pick me up, so it was nice to have some people to hang out with. Ended the day, as always, watching the sunset on the Promenade des Anglais
- Aug 22-23. Returned to London, via Geneva. Then home to Vancouver. Happy to see my frogs!
Hmmm… that wasn’t very condensed, was it? And I didn’t do it from memory – I kept a travel journal throughout my trip, because I knew I wouldn’t remember all the details without a little help. As I flipped through my journal to write this posting, I got excited all over again by the things that I did and the fun memories I have now. I was especially lucky to travel with my mom and my aunts. We had so much fun together – one of the other people in our tour group told us at the end of the trip that “You are what a family should be like.” And I couldn’t agree more!
So, as I mentioned, there will be more blog postings on some of the most exciting things that I saw/did/learned/ate/bought on my trip. Complete with photos – as I took about one zillion of them23. But I have to admit, even just writing thing post has me wanderlusting already! I wonder where my next trip should be?
- Where by “have” I mean “mostly in my brain still, but with a few bits and pieces jotted in my notebook.” [↩]
- OK, just people dressed as pirates. [↩]
- OK, more about one of my motherlands (Ireland) than about my other motherland (England). Because I went on a guided tour of Ireland, while the England portion of my trip consisted of only 4 days and no guide. [↩]
- Between 2 pm on Aug 21 and 2 pm on Aug 22. [↩]
- I realize that for people from Europe, where there as so many tiny countries all packed close together, being in 4 different countries within 24 hours might not seem like a big deal, but when you come from a country where it takes a week to drive across your country, it’s pretty cool! [↩]
- Spoiler alert: the palace is not all that exciting to look at. [↩]
- Though it was still lovely! [↩]
- Which will come in useful since I learned all about weaving at Foxford [↩]
- Also, I got to feed a lamb! [↩]
- I bought a copy of the recipe for the scones, because I’ve been trying to find a good recipe for scones for ages, as all the recipes I’ve tried so far turned about mediocre at best. Expect a scone baking blog posting in the not too distant future. [↩]
- OK, so I guess you don’t “make” marble, you mine it and then make things with it. But I learned about that anyway. [↩]
- Did I mention that everyone in our tour group was from Canada? [↩]
- Read: horse & carriage [↩]
- Don’t you see how my gab giftedness has become even more gifted already? [↩]
- There’s safety bars beneath, so it’s not *that* scary. [↩]
- The tour guide there totally wanted me. [↩]
- Which was really freaking cool. I couldn’t believe a cemetery could be that cool! [↩]
- Did I ever mention how much I love Oscar Wilde? [↩]
- Spoiler alert: They were underwhelming. [↩]
- Important in Irish history, but not all that exciting to look at, really. [↩]
- My feet are *killing* me from all the walking! [↩]
- There was an older couple from Belgium, and two couples around my age: one couple from NYC and one couple from Washington, DC. [↩]
- Don’t worry, I won’t make you sit through all the photos. I’ll pick out the prettiest ones to share here. [↩]