Bags out, had breakfast and down in the lobby by 8am. Met our tour director - Robert Joyce from Scotland. Mix up on the bags - we had more suitcases than there was supposed to be. Had to go out to the bus and tag our bags with "official tour tags". Turned out we had 9 suitcases that weren't on this tour. Bell Captain would have to figure out who those other bags belonged to. Our bus... oops coach driver is Jimmy (can't remember his last name) and he safely drove us all around for 2 1/2 weeks. Thank goodness. Have you seen the way they drive over there???? Oy!!! Several people on this tour are hacking away. Note to self: Must take LOTS of vitamins.
Stonehenge!!! Didn't have a whole lot of time to see it, but did the self guided tour and soaked up the atmosphere *grin*. Most of the group didn't do the tour, only took pictures from outside the fence. Me, short time or not, was going to see it. It wasn’t as big as I though it would be. =) Next we drove to Salisbury - the cathedral was, as usual for me, under much scaffolding. Wandered about the town, grabbed lunch at a sandwich place, got lost, but finally figured out how to get to the bus pick up.
Next stop, Bath. 2 1/2 hours to explore. Did go through the ruins, touched the water (right before I saw the sign that said not to). We had a lovely tea in the Bath tea room. I really could get used to doing this "high tea" thing. *grin*. Walked across the Pulterney Bridge and the view reminded me of Niagara Falls for some reason.
Crossed into Wales to the city of Cardiff (or Caerdydd). Enjoyed trying to figure out the road signs – both in English and Welsh. At dinner, got to meet several people - sat with Sue & Brian from Sydney. By listening to the accents on the bus, I think there are very few Americans on this tour.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Bit of a mix up - nobody got wake up calls except Robert and he had to call everybody PDQ. Still, made it out by 8am. Got a private tour of Cardiff Castle. In the center of the castle is a Norman Keep - Kev & I climbed to the top. Lovely views of the city. Did a bit of shopping in the tourist store - not a whole lot of time as were catching the ferry to Ireland and the ferry waits for no one. Had to drive to Fishguard instead of Pembroke as our original ferry had been cancelled due to some sort of accident (man hit by tractor?). Very foggy - and although the seas were supposed to be "mild", Kev & I felt much better riding outside on the top deck. I'd hate to have found out what the sea felt like when the seas were more than "mild".
Ireland!!! Robert went over the optional excursions and then gave us a brief history of the area. I am enjoying listening to him – a storyteller he is =)
Dinner at the hotel restaurant. Met two more Aussies – Lou & Judy from Hervey Bay. I surprised them because I not only knew where it was, I had stayed there for a few days. (Australia camping trip of 1986 – we had gotten rained out of our campsite and ended up camping out in the Hervey Bay Emergency shelter.) We also met a family from Canberra – Geoff & Nerida and their teenage daughter Zoe – and two sisters from Buenos Aires.
After dinner, we walked around the area – checking out Reginald’s Tower – taking pictures of things that caught our fancy. Skipped the pub crawl, between the red wine with dinner and sips of Kev’s hard cider, I had more than enough alcohol. =)
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Ooooh… The Waterford Crystal Showroom is a very dangerous place to be. I saw many lovely things, but I managed to not buy anything. We’d been told that we could get better prices in Blarney. Major poinging!
Blarney: Visited the castle and climbed to the top where the Blarney Stone rests. You have to lie on your back and sort of hang out into space to kiss the stone. I decided that rather than anger the gods into taking what little eloquence I do have, that I’d give it a miss. I don’t know what Kev’s story is, but that’s mine and I’m sticking with it.
The stores in Blarney did have better prices for Waterford crystal and had free shipping. I was bad and bought Karen & Gayle bowls and bought a pair of wine glasses for me. Found a very cute pink sweater with little ponies on it for Alani and another soccer outfit (Ireland this time) for Kyle.
Got to stay at the hotel in Tralee for two nights! One gets very excited about not having to schlep out the suitcase the very next morning! That evening we saw Oilean –“ This latest production by Siamsa Tire celebrates and explores Blasket Island living while also challenging our own notions of identity as contemporary islanders. Capturing the spirit of this island community, their traditions and customs, their wealth of song and story, their love of life and their strong kinship with one another” T’was lovely - the story was told through song and dance - I ended up buying the CD & a program (no snickering). Wish there was some sort of video too.
Friday, May 14, 2004
Woke up with a rash on hands, legs, tummy and neck? Hives? I was definitely NOT a happy camper. Tried to figure out what I was reacting to – soap? Laundry detergent? Something in the carpet? Did I brush up against a plant? Water? They were painting the building and doing yard work – maybe something from that? Oy.
We drove around the “Ring of Kerry” - lots of gorgeous hills, green meadows, fields of bright yellow rape (canola?) flowers and shimmering lakes. Stopped in the town of Sneem for lunch. I found a very friendly pharmacist who took one look at my hands and prescribed Zirtek (24 hours allergy pills) and also brought over a glass of water so I could take one immediately. It so definitely helped – within the hour I was feeling much better. I am still reacting to stuff – skin is still very pressure sensitive. If it doesn’t get better soon, I’m going to have to check in with a doctor. Grrrrr…
Dinner & Ceilidh (sp?) at a local pub. Sherry trifle & Irish coffee… yum! Lots of singing – there was a guy who played several different types of pipes, an uilean (Irish version of bagpipes) player, a guy on keyboards, another on bodhran and of course, a fiddler. Step dancing too!