Traveling with a group

Everyone has their tour favorites – you tour with your family, you tour alone or you tour with a group of strangers that become friends.

While I was working, I made a trip up to Oregon every year to visit my Mom. This was and is a great trip but when I retired, I decided it was time to venture outside my comfort zone.  As my past writings have explained, I have been to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.  These trips are listed under Celtic Quilt Tours LLC who work with Journey’s Connect. Both are awesome companies.

All stops and hotels are agreed upon before we leave our homes. Now some other tours have the option of driving yourself around the countryside and others provide either a bus or you go by cruise ship.  I prefer the bus method and here is why. The driver and tour guide know the area and are happy to give you their knowledge of the area.

In Ireland, our tour guide and driver was the same person. Tony is licensed, has gone to school to be a tour guide as well as a driver. His running commentary was brilliant as well as educational.DSCN0575.JPG

In Scotland, our driver was Tony but our tour guide was Richard. How wonderful it was to be educated by a man wearing a kilt. It just added a tad more to the history, the scenery and the tour.DSCN1280.JPG Photo taken outside Holyrood Castle in Edinburgh by me.

In Wales, we had Judy as our tour guide with Tony driving (he is the master of GPS). Judy was so friendly and knowledgeable about Wales and we had a blast with her. But on the other hand, we were one tour that was always on time and ready to go.  She took us to museums, castles, stately homes and beautiful gardens.  We introduced her to the world of quilting. So it really became a win-win situation.DSCN2307.JPG This was taken at Cardiff Castle.IMG_20180803_073753.jpgIMG_20180803_095033.jpg

Here are some things I found out – always carry some coin as the toilets in the UK are pay toilets. Not all but most and if you crowd through with one person paying, you may get stop by a person who sits in a frosted glass area that will come out and ask for more money (yes it happened to us in Kensington Gardens). Also found out that just because someone tells you not to walk back to the hotel, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t safe.

After a terrific dinner and entertainment show at the Cardiff Castle, I decided that I needed to walk back to the hotel. Two other ladies joined me. We had a lovely walk back to our hotel and I got to do the Time Warp Dance outside a bar kitty corner from the hotel where we were staying. I know she was being cautious but it was fun walking amongst the college/party crown on a Friday night.  And apparently Brain’s is a large beer distributor in the area – thought it was zombie beer.

Cardiff was fun and great but I really appreciated the area of Aberystwyth. I grew up in a beach town and this was like going back home.  Whereas our sand is a finer grit, the beach at Aberystwyth was more like pebbles and into sizes of large, flat stones. The other visitors were so friendly and the staff was fabulous at our hotel, the Gwesty’r Marine. We were right on the Promenade so if you wanted an early walk or an after dinner stroll, the area was right there.DSCN2434 The weather was warm, the sun stayed out late and the water was calm.

Plus we had Constitution Hill near us so we could climb up the hill or ride the funicular. The view was fabulous and there is a rest stop/restaurant at the top.  Where I assumed that Wales would be cold and rainy, it was quite the opposite. It seems the UK was also going through a bit of the climate change. DSCN2448.JPG Plus if you want to see more of Aberystwyth, , check out Hinterland on Netflix. The first season, episode one show a lot of Devil’s Bridge.  There are two tours – one is one pound and the other is two pounds. IMG_20180805_102011.jpg Depends on how much time you have and how fit you are.

All I can say is this was a terrific trip. We traveled over 2200 miles, we didn’t lose anyone, we saw great castles, factories, sceneries, quilt shows, museums and just had a great time.   Save that money up and travel – either in the USA or overseas.  It is so worth it.  And it’s back to Ireland in 2019……

 

 

 

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…….