Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ireland and Scotland

I will try to get this recap done and sum it up so you dont have to read too much. I have everyone asking about the trip and pictures.

We left Katie at our house and my mom stayed with her. They had fun and you can see pictures on her totsite.

Shannon and I left on July 27th. We arrived in Dublin Ireland on July 28th around 5 pm. The flight was 10 hours SFO to Heathrow then another hour or so to Dublin. Right out of the airport we got a rental car. Cute tiny red car.
Shannon did an absolutely fantastic job of driving! It was scarey to be a passenger and probably a driver also. Opposite side of the road and narrow roads and terrible signs on roads to get anywhere, it was an experience to say the least. We made it to our first hotel of our trip. The Drury court inn. It was nice enough for the first night. Unfortunately there was a bar or club across the stree so we were hearing that in the middle of the night. These are pictures from just outside our hotel at about 10 pm or so. It was so light and nice weather and beautiful.
Day 2 is July 29th. Today we are leaving Dublin and heading towards the West Coast of Ireland. Our trip today is a Driving tour. First we had to get to the starting point (3 hours away) in Newport to start the driving tour. Once we hit Newport, we drove the northern part of Mayo County. We saw the Atlantic Ocean and lots of sheep and cute little towns. <


THis is a raising bridge over the River Shannon.
Hope you can figure out some of these pictures. The drive had some super narrow roads and the driving was a bit stressful. We did see some castles and castle ruins. The highlight of the tour was the Bronze circle- Ce'ide Bronze age stone circle in DoonCarton. (Who knows if I have these name right anymore) Our final destination today is the Park William Hotel in Claremorris. It was fantastic, quiet and really nice.
Sorry if the video makes you driving sick!
video
This video was from the top of the pyramid shaped building. videoObviously it was windy. 7/30 We woke up today in Claremorris and this is a sculpture in the middle of the town across from where we had breakfast. Today we are driving back to Dublin to return the car to the airport. The drive was nice and mostly on a wide road or motorway. The weather was beautiful, blue sky and puffy white clouds, occasional spurts of rain for 5 minutes here and there. After the drop off of the car, we took a bus to Dublin from the airport. The Spire in Dublin. Stored our luggage at a luggage storage place and did some sight seeing. Then we hopped on the hop on/hop off bus for almost 2 hours, did the entire tour. University in Dublin I think. Then my battery to the camera died early in the tour. I was so mad! Next stop is the train station and taking a train to Belfast. The train ride was beautiful and coastal some of the time and since the sun sets so late, we never even had a sunset. Once we got to the train station in Belfast, we took a cab to our Bed and breakfast. Once settled in, we needed to eat. It was 9pm or later so we had no idea what was nearby or open. We ended up getting kabobs at Mama's Kitchen kabob and pizza. (all the kabob places are kabob and pizza) Well we walked there, ordered and took it back to the B&B with us. Man it was good and the chili sauce was HOT. It was funny though, these were huge, no napkins or utensils (which we needed) so it was funny to see us eat this in our room. We had tummy aches the next morning from how spicy it was. The B&B itself was really nice and comfortable. We stayed 2 nights. 7/31 Today was the day to take a bus tour up to Giant's Causeway. We were happy to not be driving. The first stop of the tour was Carrickfergus Castle.

This was a quick stop so we did not tour the castle. Oh and the weather is the worst weather we have had so far, cloudy, gloomy and looks like we will get rain.
As the tour continued, we drove through small towns but the tour guide was full of lots of information, history and facts and well done. Next stop is the rope bridge. Walking out to robe bridge, view
It was a beautiful walk out to it but Shannon and I declined on crossing it.
From the rope bridge, the tour continues to the next stop, Giants Causeway. Since the weather has deteriorated and gotten really crappy, we took the shuttle bus down, its nearly a mile I think. ITs windy and rainy, or was. The rain stopped while we got out and wandered. I will spare the details on the pushing and rudeness of the tourists that were German. Crazy and rude people but thats all I will say. Here are the causeway pictures.


It was all pretty cool to see.
Next and last stop is Bushmills Distillery. We were too late for the last tour but we did enjoy whisky cheesecake and Shannon had some Irish Coffee.
The very last but super fast stop was this castle ruins. The misty rain made it just beautiful to see.


After the tour, we had a dinner in Belfast and went back to the B&B.

8/1 We took a quick trip up the road to Belfast Castle in hopes of buying some Ireland souvenirs.
They were closed still so no such luck.
Our B&B Somerton House in Belfast and I will highly recommend it!
It was a beautiful walk back to the b&b and next stop, Stena lines for the ferry.... to Scotland! So we get to the ferry docks and are waiting. I really do not know what to expect for the ferry. I sort of picture the ferry that takes you from San Francisco to Vallejo or something. Uh.... no. This was cool.
Holds probably 200 cars. A cinema, can get my nails done, a small play area for toddlers, larger one for kids, arcade, restaurants, a gift shop,a band and lots more.This is the view from the back observing area and that bit of land is Ireland

(This is everyone waiting on a bus. The ferry was late and only 1 train out of Stanraer a day so Stena lines bussed and taxi'd everyone to Ayr for the next trains they needed.
So cheap, 23GBP to go from Belfast to Stanraer then by rail to Edinburgh. This was a long travel day but pretty relaxing and beautiful scenery.
That is our first sights of Edinburgh when we arrive at 7pm.
By the time we get to Edinburgh, we have been in 1 car, 2 taxis, 2 trains, a bus and a ferry.
After arriving in Edinburgh, our hotel is just 1/2 block from the trainstation. The apex Waterloo hotel on Princes street. Wow, beautiful hotel and room. I love Edinburgh also, something that is so neat and beautiful about it.This is at the corner by our hotel.
So since its about 7:30 at night, we set out to eat. After walking all over Rose street, we settled on Indian food. Wow was that good! Really yummy.

8/2 Today we took a guided tour in a small bus to Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and Sterling castle. Us on the bus.
Boat for boat cruise is the boat picture<
When we arrived at Loch lomond we were able to take a short boat cruise out on the Loch, it was gorgeous! Here are some views from the water.

We saw so much today and it was so beautiful.
Somewhere along the way the saw the Castle Doon (from Monty Pythons The Holy Grail)
The tour was heading to Stirling castle and it was really neat to go see. The views were great.
This was the only highland cow we saw. This was the little town we ate lunch in. They had a sheep dog demonstration
Here are the Stirling Castle pictures. This is the view of the castle as you drive up to it.


This is from up top Stirling Castle.
As the travel continues in Scotland, I have my emotional times. The reason this trip happened is to go for a memorial to bury my Grandmother. We were very close and shared our Birthday on the same day. Different things have sparked memories of my grandmother since we have been in Scotland and Shannon has found me with tears a few times. The tour today has definetly been with tears. The music or just little things.
8/3 Today we were supposed to get a rental car. We had a few issues and had decided to cancel the car, then changed our mind. Unfortunatley when we tried to get a car anyway, the location was sold out. So we extended our stay in our fancy hotel. http://www.apexhotels.co.uk/hotels/edinburgh-waterloo-place/ since it was so nice, we did not mind. Plus this gave us a relaxed day and we did not have to rush around to be here or there. So what did we do? A load of laundry at a nearby Launderette. Expensive! 3gbp or about $6 to wash. Anyway, then we went to Edinburgh castle. Thankfully we did this. The Military Tattoo festival starts Friday and the crowds are already increasing. Anyway, we walked up the hill (Royal Mile) to see the castle. You see the bleachers already set up for the Tattoo. We actually bought tickets on Shannon's blackberry while we stood in line, then got out of line to get the prepaid tickets. (Buy your tickets ahead of time if you go in August) We toured the castle and it was incredible. I apparently was there in 1981 at 11 years old, but I do not remember it at all. Here are some pictures of the castle and views.


This is the crowds on Royal Mile, stopping for street preformer who were not impressive at all.
This was a relaxed night. I was going to souvenier shop but shops closed early. I still have nearly nothing to take home. Oh well. Tomorrow we go to the highlands and then end in Dundee to see Family.
Here is a piper on the street in Edinburgh, one of the only ones we saw.

8/4 Today we have a car reserved, we picked it up in the train station in Edinburgh and started out Journey to the highlands. The car rental place was busy, but very tiny. While we waited, it was amusing to watch people get their car and try to figure out how to drive it and which side of the parking lot to take. Getting out of Edinburgh for us was not nearly the task it was to leave Dublin! We headed over towards Fort Williams and drove north along Lock Ness. We stopped in a cute town, Invergarry (I think) and had lunch and continued up Lock Ness. Here are some of the pictures along the way.

Our car in ScotlandAll the way up Loch Ness, the drive was touristy and busy. We even had a car where the car was like in America, driver side on the left but the driver (obviously tourist) was on the wrong side of the road coming right at us. When he finally stopped he was just shrugging at us as if we were on the wrong side, which we were not. Not once did Shannon get on the other side of the road, he did great driving everywhere. Ask him about it. It was funny as there are signs all over Scotland in various languages, especially German, saying to drive on the left. So after that crazy experience, we just continued on. We actually never stopped at Urquhart Castle due to how busy the parking lot was. So we stopped further up and took a picture. See how tiny the castle is in the picture? It really is in there.We were headed up to Inverness but due to how long the drive has taken and the traffic we hit, we did not stop in Inverness. That will be for the next trip. So we continued North towards Forres and Elgin, with intentions of going to Brodie Castle.
Just as the last trip I made 7 or so years ago, we got there and it was closed! ugh! We wandered around and were able to use the restroom and go in the gift shop and then went on our way.

Our next destination is Stonehaven and Dunottar Castle. This was and has been such a beautiful drive all day, we encountered various weather but its been pleasant all day.This is Dunottar Castle behind us.We arrived after it was closed but you are still able to walk down to it. (it is ruins)



As we walked out the cliff, there was an electric fence next to us so the cows would not jump or fall off the cliff. There were also some gross big black slugs and lots of bunnies but they were too fast to get a picture. This was such a beautiful sight! Thanks Kathy for mentioning that we should check it out!
Now on we go, destination, Dundee to Mike and Sheila's house. Apparently my Dad and brother have been waiting us as they arrived this morning.

The drive down was coastal and tiny little towns along the coast, but really gorgeous to drive through. We searched high and low at each little town for places to eat. The places to eat were not on the same road we were on so we ended up here!!The menu is different and it actually was not bad. The one and only time we ate at McDonalds. Finally around 10 pm we arrived at Mike and Sheila's! We were greeted by everyone. My Dad and brother, Aunt Margaret, Mike, Sheila, Paul, Danny and not sure if I missed anyone. Finally we are there and its so nice to see family.

8/5 Today we are in Dundee at Mike and Sheila's. Vicki came out and we got to meet Jude also. Jude is 6 weeks older than Katie. So very cute! Well around noon we finally got out of the house and took the caravan of people to tour the Discovery sailing ship and the Jute mill. Since my Grandmother started working in the Jute mill on her 14th birthday, we all wanted to go tour it. Aunt Margaret, Shannon and I, Bobby and my Dad and Mike and Paul. As it turns out, I learned, Mike also worked at one of the Jute mills and my dad worked for a company that made the machines and my Grandmothers sisters also worked at the Jute mill.



(working at the mill is most likely what caused the lung fibrosis my grandmother died of. Dundee had many Jute mills, this was not the one that Grandma actually worked at. The tour was well done and fun given the group of characters with us.
Everyone having lunch in the square before going to the Discovery ship.
This is the builing where my Dad's cousin Tommy McDonald was Lord Provost of Dundee.
Lots of fun pictures from the Discovery ship.







This is Mike and Sheila's front of the house. These are the windmills just out their yard!! Huge! My Uncle Ian and his wife Sharon arrived today. Their luggage did not but they did.


8/5 Today is the day we have the service for my grandmother.
Margaret and I are ready early so waiting on the others. We are signing cheese like Katie does. Vicki and Jude at the cemtary.
Here is the cemetary and the headstone where grandma is. Hers is the one in the right corner with peach roses.
Here is my Dad at the cemetary with his Auntie Nellie, one of grandmas sisters.
We had a small lunch with family here.

People in our family showed up that I had no idea would be there and it was a wonderful surprise for me.

Jean McDonald and Auntie Nellie.
Paul and young Tommy (my family has 2 of each in the family or more. Tommy, Sheila, Bobby, Frankie.... who else?)
Dad's cousin Danny and I.
These last pictures were at Danny's house. Everyone went over there starting at 5. However, since everyone in the family seems to be late, they were arriving at6. Unfortunately, we had a plane to catch in Edinburgh so as people came in, we were leaving.
Vicki and her brother Paul and Jude!
So off we were to Edinburgh to catch a plane to Dublin. The last picture I took on our trip, at the airport. We went to Dublin, got up early the 7th and flew home to SFO. It was a long day of traveling. What a fantastic trip.