Scotland 2017 – What a great place

So since retiring, I have done some work on the house. Then in 2016 I went to Ireland with a quilt tour group (Celtic Quilt Tours LLC) on my own (meaning no husband and I didn’t know anyone on this tour).  Ireland was so well planned, that I signed up for their Scotland trip.  The terrific people I met inspired me to travel again on my own.

However, this time I decided to return to Dublin for two days after the Scotland trip. So off I went.1505131612184 First leg of the trip was LAX to Paris with 90 minutes to get connecting flight to Edinburgh.  I took my little Alpaca bear along so he does show up in some pictures.

The flight was on Air France and I have to admit that I was nervous at first. But that being said, Air France was terrific on both legs of the flight. Be forewarned that if the flight attendant is handing out a form, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want you to sign up for a credit card. This was an entry card so the Customs person knows who is coming in.

I had asked my travel agent (Pam at Open Gate Travel who is awesome) to set up a driver to pick me up. Two of the other travelers coming in from Canada were to meet me and we would share the ride in. Well British Air bumped them and then lost their luggage…. more later on that.

The driver was terrific and gave me a running account of the buildings that we passed. He dropped me off at the hotel where after checking in, I went to the bar where our group usually congregates. We were all pretty excited to be back together.  The hotel was near the train station and the Royal Mile.  The next morning I met with the front desk person, Siohban, who was from Galway. She was so helpful telling me about the buildings across the rail tracks and how to get there. She is the kind of person you want to greet you at a registration desk.

DSCN1099With my trusty map from the front desk, she gave me perfect directions on how to get over to the monuments. No rain but a little chilly. I visited the City Services building which, when built, was a jail. Also hiked up Calton Hill. There is a lovely monument to Admiral Nelson. The fee is 5 pounds to climb to the top. Worth every penny. Here are a few photos. Climbing up Nelson’s monument is over 180 steps but I made it. Magnificent view of the entire city.

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Nelson’s Monument

There are other areas up there. Some have not been finished. But it was a picture perfect day. Sun was shining and the breeze was great. Just the right temperature to get rid of the cobwebs from the previous day’s flight. A gentleman from Germany asked me if I would take his picture and he reciprocated by taking mine.

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The sign stated Calton Key which is kept in the building that was a jail and not City Services.

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There is also the Solider’s Monument which is over 275 steps which I thought I would do when our tour ended up back in Edinburgh.

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On the Royal Mile sits St Gile’s church. This is one beautiful piece of architecture and they ask for a 2 pound donation to take photos. As the sun came around and hit one of the stain glass windows, you could almost hear the angels go ‘Ta Da” so I paid the fee and got my sticker. The church is amazing and while I was in the gift shop, the mid afternoon service started. So I went back in and listened. Very inspirational, very moving and very touching.

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After hitting numerous stores, it was time for a little break. So the bear and I stopped for coffee. The odd thing was, you didn’t hear much of bagpipe music but more Motown.

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There are numerous hanging baskets with beautiful flowers on almost every building. So nice to see. Just ignore the grumpy looking guy.

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That is all for now which sums up about 1/2 my first day in Edinburgh. It is nice to explore on your own and it’s great to explore with friends. I hope that my blog can inspire you to take the leap and go on a trip by yourself.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Quilt Tours and Why you should go Part 2

Well, I’ve been back from my first trip to Ireland and have gone through all the photos with relish (and a cup of tea).  So many terrific memories and meeting great people.  So here are a couple of my favorite areas.    Now some people told me that you shouldn’t go to Belfast -too many fights, bombings, etc.  Well, nothing could be further from the truth.  Yes, they have had their differences.  But the people have worked out some differences and the 30′ high gates are open.DSCN0423.JPG.  Here is how one side decorated the fence.  The gates/fence were all about 30′ tall.   This was to keep the Molotov cocktails from being tossed.  You could view this as graffiti or as artwork.

They have the Black Cab tours which are conducted by the locals and give you a tour of the City.  The City is continuing to work out differences and rebuild.   We did tour the Titanic Museum which was sad but very informative.

This photo was taken at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. (I’ve tried to get it posted the portrait way and not landscape but have failed) Giants causeway 2.jpgThe landscape is truly amazing and that day we had terrific weather.  The stones are not carved.  The shape juts up and is amazing.  You can get an audio tour which tells you the history and folklore of the area.  I could have spent all day there hiking on the rocks and just breathing the ocean air.

From there, we headed back towards Ireland.  Each hotel was top rated, great staff, wonderful food and very accommodating. Now this tour was listed as a Quilt tour but we went to so many historic places, museums, famine ships and castles.  One party was a Grandmother, Mother and 2 daughter group.  Since one of the daughters didn’t quilt, she was able to do a horseback ride while we were at a famine/workhouse tour.  So you can do other things as long as they fit into the time schedule.  Just be upfront with your tour people and things can be arranged.

My favorite city was Galway.  It is so vibrant and filled with art and music.  Again, friendly people, great food and the locals are wonderful.  We went to the Aran Islands (Inishmore) and was able to climb to the top and look over the cliff.  It was the perfect boat ride over and back.  Again, great food, wonderful people and some great shops.Aran island castle.jpg  I just followed the others and got on my hands and knees to creep up to the edge.   However, I did creep to almost the edge for a photo.DSCN0723.JPG It’s a far drop below , and it is a stunning view.DSCN0712.JPG  The photo below is the hike up to the former castle.

We also visited Malahide Castle, Kylemore and the Rock of Cashel.  Each one so full of great photos and history.

If you have the chance, save up your money, get your passport ready and go visit.  I would love to go back right now but have decided to do Scotland next year with the same tour organization (www.celticquilttours.com).  Our group consisted of Canadians and Americans.  We ranged from hand quilters, long-armers, designers, wool workers, appliquers, etc.  Just remember to get pounds and Euro’s before you go and get a Horizon VAT card.  You get money back when you swipe your card at the airport before going home.  Also this trip was made special because we had an awesome driver.  Tony, from Kerry Coaches, knows the roads, the histroy, the jokes and how to keep the tour on time.  He was the best,

So to keep my Irish feel going, I watch Quiet Man, Secret of Roan Inish, The Commitments, and listen to the Merry Ploughboy band (they have a great Pub in Dublin that is worth the visit).  I also have a cuppa Irish Afternoon tea as well.  DSCN0640.JPG  I leave you with this photo of foxglove from the Kylemore Abbey.

Thank you for reading.

 

Quilt Tours and why you should go

Ireland – you say it and tons of visions come to mind – green meadows, sheep grazing, nicely poured pint of Guinness, dancers, etc.  I have wanted to visit this island for many decades and once retired, it was number 1 on my bucket list.

I started researching tours as I didn’t want to drive myself.  What better way than to be driven by someone, someone who knows the country,  and someone who enjoys driving.  In my quilt magazines there are always tours listed – from being driven to cruises.  I Googled Quilt Tours Ireland and came up with a few names.  There were two that caught my eye.

I downloaded the itineraries for comparisons.  Both were around the same price and length of visit.  One guaranteed a small group – no more than 25 people.  The other said no more than 50.  So what do you do?  You ask your guild if anyone had taken either tour.  One guild member highly, and I mean, highly recommend Celtic Quilt Tours LLC.

This tour started off with Dublin, up to Northern Ireland around the west coast and back to Dublin.  The  places listed were all around the coast of Ireland.  I sent off an email explaining that this would be my first tour as well as my first trip overseas.  The American contact was so helpful.  For four months before the tour started, we received newsletters about the trip.  Everything from where we were to meet at Dublin Airport, how much money to bring over in Euros and pounds, the Horizon VAT cards, shopping trips, packing items, size of luggage etc.

Our first item was a tour of Dublin and then off to visit Malahide Castle.  The tour provided breakfast as most of us came in on red-eye flights from the States and Canada.  We could opt out for shopping or a tour of the castle.  The gardens were beautiful and the castle tour guide was extremely informative.

We went back to the hotel and checked in.  Now by this time my eyes were rolling around in my head from being up so many hours.  First thought was – I need a nap.  But then my brain kicked in with “You are in Dublin – get out and explore”.  Splash some water on my face, grab a glass of water, brush my teeth and off I went.  Down Grafton Street, past Trinity College and in to a few stores.DSCN0369DSCN0368.JPG

 

We had on our schedule to visit the Book of Kells the first day but due to other circumstances, it was held off.  One thing about a tour is to be flexible.  Dinner at O’Callahan’s  was great.  But by 9:30 pm, I was done.  Plus we had to have our bags out in the hallway early the next morning for the porters as we were leaving Dublin by 8:30 am.

Off to Belfast in Northern Ireland.  The past problems have been resolved and restoration and revival has been started. This is a very passionate city.

More later on my trip as this was a 13 day tour and I took a lot of photos and notes.  But in a nutshell, great trip, great people on the tour, amazing tour driver, beautiful scenery, terrific people in every city and delicious food.  More later…….