Our Travels to the UK and a bit beyond, Part 7
By Diane, with comments from Holly and Allan
Note: The photos used here were chosen to go with this narrative....to see more photos from this trip, go to our home page and click on "2007 Vacation” and “Holly 2007 Vacation”.
2007 – October 25 thru November 13 (Diane and Allan); Nov. 2-9 (Holly)
Allan and I flew Aer Lingus to Ireland on October 25. We arrived in Dublin on the 26th and picked up our first of two rental cars, (Allan: A 1200 cc Vauxhall Corsa which had about as much power as a lawnmower) which we then drove to Arklow in the Wicklow Mountains, via Glendalough. In Arklow we stayed at the beautiful Woodenbridge Hotel. (Allan: Finding it quite by accident and being totally overjoyed that the car was actually parked for the night.) The second day we drove from Arklow to Waterford, via Kilkenny and Cashel staying the night at the Travelodge, Waterford. (Allan: Finding that place with the help of some very friendly Irish women). Third day we took a quick trip to the Waterford Crystal Factory, then went on to Blarney for a two night stay at the Blarney Castle Hotel (a truly lovely place with a wonderful, friendly staff) We stopped to see a bit of Cork on the way. (Allan: Once again being overjoyed to have the car parked for a few days). Fifth day on to Galway via Limerick (I’ll give it a miss, next time – Limerick, that is. It was gloomy, dark and hard to find your way out of. I’d wanted to see it because of Frank McCourt). We also went out of our way to see The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren in County Clare. In Galway we stayed at the very nice Flannerys Hotel (unfortunately didn’t see much of Galway since we arrived in the evening). On the sixth day it was on to Dublin and a three night stay at the ABC Guesthouse – run by the incredibly welcoming and helpful Josef and his wife. A GREAT place and a terrific location for seeing Dublin without driving our rental car INTO it. (Allan: Hooray!!) The B&B is 5 only minutes by bus to Dublin City Center and the bus stop literally outside it’s front door!! (Allan : Dublin has to be one of my favorite places to walk.)
On the eighth day, we returned our rental car to Dublin Airport and boarded a quick and uneventful flight to London Gatwick, where we picked up a second rental car and enjoyed(??) a very stressful and delayed drive to Exeter. (Allan: Stuck on the A303 just past Stonehenge for about an hour waiting for a tow truck to remove a broken down lorry, and consequently arriving in Exeter after dark and missing a turn resulting in an extra 28 mile detour). In Exeter we stayed three nights at the Express Holiday Inn on the outskirts – great modern basic hotel, with a wonderful pub called the Barn Owl next door. (Allan: Truly magnificent place to eat and drink.) We used Exeter as a base to visit Tintagel (WOW). (Allan: WOW!!) Then on the 11th day we drove the rental car back to Surrey, and Hampton Court Palace, where we met up with Holly, who had flown in three days before and had been staying with her friends, Becca and Michael, in East London. (Holly: I used to live walking distance from Becca before she moved to England, so I was overjoyed to see her again after many, many months! Becca and Michael were wonderful hosts, I arrived at their guest room to find a stack of Crunchie bars waiting for me on my pillow. We did a lot of shopping that weekend at various outdoor markets and I had a great time visiting all of Becca’s new haunts. We did the Jack The Ripper walk in London one night which was spectacular, as usual!) During our four night stay at the palace, we went into London for some shopping and eating, and also took at trip to St. Albans with our friends, Patrick, Christine and Katherine. (Allan: Patrick had a little sat nav that is an indispensable item that we must include on future driving trips.) (Holly: Driving in the UK was sort of an unnerving experience, but I’ve got to say it was great to be able to meet Christine and Katherine for dinner and to visit St. Albans on our own time schedule rather than having to rely on trains.) Becca and Michael joined us for one night at the palace, and then Holly flew home at the end of our four night palace stay. (Holly: It was fantastic to have Becca and Michael out! It was so much fun to share all we know about the palace history with them and to take night time walking tours. We had a great dinner at the Albion that night then did lots of walking and photo taking around the palace at night.) Allan and I then headed into in London for a three night stay at the Travel Inn County Hall (you simply cannot beat it for location and price – we’ve stayed there several times). We even took a daytrip to Paris on Eurostar, the last weekend it was leaving from Waterloo before its move to St. Pancras. (Allan: This was a surprise to me and I don’t know how I didn’t guess it.) I don't know how he didn't guess it either. It was a hard secret to keep for months ahead of time. I had the Paris Mapguide hidden beneath the lining of my carryon. On the 17th day, we flew back to Dublin for a one night stay at Bewley’s Airport Hotel. After 18 days we were exhausted, but could still have stayed a bit. I will never tire of my annual trips to the beautiful United Kingdom.
(1) Driving through the gorgeous, lush green Irish countryside (Allan: At times I felt like I was driving through Middle Earth and expected to see Hobbits and Elves at any moment) (this will also coincidently be covered in “lowlights”); (2) having an Irish Coffee almost everyplace we stayed at the request of Holly, and judging each one via a nifty little booklet she made for me; (3) walking around the 11th Century monastic ruins of Glendalough in a light mist; (4) the otherworldly sunrise at Arklow our first morning in Ireland; (5) kissing the Blarney Stone on my second attempt, having chickened out the first time around (and laughing my behind off when Allan bashed his nose on it!); (6) having lunch at Dublin’s Clarence Hotel, co-owned by U2, (which won my little Irish Coffee competition, by the way); (7) walking for hours and hours and hours around beautiful Dublin and visiting the Guinness Storehouse for a pint – the 360 views from the Gravity Bar were fabulous; (Allan: Luckily Diane doesn’t really care for Guinness so I got a pint and a half.) (8) driving along the A303 on our way to Exeter and coming most unexpectedly upon Stonehenge! (I knew we were near it, but didn’t realize we were on the road that went right by it); (9) FINALLY managing to see spectacular Tintagel in Cornwall, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. It’s been on my “to do” list for years and years, but it is almost impossible to get to without a car – actually it was also rather hard to get to WITH a car; (10) a nice lunch with Holly at Gordon Ramsay’s The Narrow Pub in Docklands on a pretty, sunny day; (Allan: The absolute best Fish and chips ever.) (Holly: and cauliflower cheese!) (11) spending time with old friends at the Palace – Malcolm, Trevor, Brian and Patrick, and making a few new ones – Roland, Ian and Rebecca; (Allan: Ian confirming my feelings about a room I Fish Court I had felt to be a little odd.) (12) the absolutely wonderful Hampton Court slide show presented in our Fish Court flat by Ian over tea and biscuits; (13) having Holly’s good friends Becca and Michael join us overnight at the palace – we LOVE to share this special place with people and they were really excited about being there; (14) a fun dinner and drinks with Patrick, Christine and Katherine in St. Albans; (15) a wonderful late night walk with torches through parts of Hampton Court Palace; (16) shopping with Holly for fabric and buttons at Liberty and on Berwick Street in Soho; (17) managing to actually surprise Allan with a daytrip to Paris. Don’t know how I managed to keep it a secret, but he was genuinely surprised when I handed him the Paris Mapguide at Waterloo Station – he thought my planned surprise would be tickets to see Spamalot; (Allan: Duh. ) (18) freshly baked baguettes in Paris on the Champs Elysee at Brioche Doree. You simply cannot get bread that tastes so good anywhere else – the French must have some secret they won’t share about breadbaking; (Allan: Even a Ham sandwich at the train station is not to be believed.) (19) the to-die-for Baileys/Malteaser cheesecake at Blarney Castle Hotel!!; (20) getting just a little bit lost on our way to Woodenbridge near Arklow and accidentally landing in Avoca, the picturesque little Irish town which doubled as “Ballykissangel” in the BBC series. I totally expected to see Colin Farrell or Dervla Kirwan walking across the road in front of Fitzgerald’s Pub! (21) walking through Dublin on Halloween nights and talking to the friendly costumed revellers!
(1) Driving rental cars in Ireland and England: I believe it is truly more stressful for the passenger (who has no control) than for the driver (Allan: That’s debatable.)– we managed to get through it with our lives and without damaging either of our rental cars, but we sure did a whole lot of screaming and yelling at each other!; (2) filling up the gas tank of our absolutely tiny little rental car and having the bill be the equivalent of U.S. $93; (3) the fly infestation of our Irish rental car – don’t even ask; (4) having to miss out on seeing certain things on our itinerary, (like Poulshot, where my Mayo ancestors came from) because we just couldn’t fit it all in. (Allan: Missing walking around The Burren for a while longer.) On some of those narrow ancient roads, it will take two to three times longer to travel a distance than you might expect – so we had to skip Kilarney, The Ring of Kerry and New Grange in Ireland, and Corfe Castle in England – Allan and I have been to Corfe, but we wanted Holly to see it – perhaps next time; (5) the currency exchange rate in general on this trip – it was absolutely the worst it has ever been on any of our 13 U.K. trips, making everything so outrageously expensive it was hard to enjoy eating out and buying things; (6) trying to return the English rental car in Kingston Upon Thames – I swear we drove in circles around Kingston’s one way system for over an hour looking for Alamo Rental Car. I hadn’t realized Kingston was so large and spread out – we usually only go to the city center there for visits to Pret a Manger, Waitrose, Boots, Barclays and Bentalls. That last hour of driving was probably the single most stressful hour of all of our driving (aside from when Allan almost ran into a stone wall in Ireland). (Allan: Note that she said almost. The truth is Allan never hit anything on this trip.) If you don’t count curbs!! We must have asked five people for directions and gotten five different answers; (7) having to see Hampton Court Palace “torn up” with big ugly scaffolding around the Clock Tower – it was hard to get good photos of the Palace this year; (8) arriving in Paris and deciding to walk down rue de Magenta toward the Seine, rather than getting a taxi or taking the Metro. Big mistake….the first thing we saw was the contents of a ladies handbag scattered all over the sidewalk. The second thing we saw was a gang of foreign teenage/early 20’s men hanging out in positively menacing groups in doorways and harassing women coming out of the Metro system and up onto the street. Totally creepy – I simply could not wait to get off of that street; (8) missing out on seeing our wonderful French friends, the Maheys, during our day in Paris – they were working out of town that day; (Allan: Maybe next time.) (9) having our London Gatwick to Dublin flight cancelled at the last minute – the flight maintenance guy came into the terminal and said something along the lines of “This bird is dead in the water” – not a plane I’d want to get on after hearing that! We ended up having to sit in the airport for several hours awaiting another flight out. They gave us five pound food vouchers and we spent them on Salty Dog Crisps (outrageously delicious) and a couple of pints. (10) (Holly: My only regret about this trip is that I was trying out a new allergy medication which was keeping me awake at night and that, combined with the jet lag in general, made me feel ill for a lot of the trip. I still had a great time, just wish I’d felt healthier!)
(1) A Boots Royal Jelly Run – I filled an entire Ralph Lauren duffel with the stuff; (2) to have real Irish stew and also Boxty in Ireland; (3) to have real Cornish pasties in Cornwall; (4) to kiss the Blarney Stone (5) to find some nice Liberty fabric that was also reasonably affordable; (6) to keep the Paris daytrip a secret from Allan right up until the last minute (Holly: miraculously, we were successful in this ?!), (7) to find unusual rocks for Holly’s jewelry-making (Holly: all of those rocks were put to good use in my Etsy shop!); and (8) most importantly, as mentioned above, to finally visit Tintagel!! !(9) (Allan: to play a Lowden guitar while visiting Ireland.) All accomplished!! It was all in all a very successful and enjoyable trip
Places Visited (Allan and Diane)