England & Ireland - 2000

Welcome to our 2000 trip description of London, York, and Ireland.  What a wonderful adventure we had to these three places.  We spent a lot of time in London in June of 1999 and really enjoyed it, so we thought we would return and explore a little further.  I describe some of our adventures to these places below and you will find a link to the pictures we took while visiting.  Don't forget to check out the "Hole In The Wall Ghost" picture.  I updated our European Trip Advice page to encompass a little more of what we discovered on this vacation, so be sure and check it out if you want to determine what worked best (and worst) for us and the things that can save you a lot of time for your trip to Europe.

Note that after re-reading my trip advice page I realized that it made an excellent primer for us on this trip.  We did as I suggested and many of the things that bit us in 1999 didn't come back to haunt us this time.  The key this time was the bags with the brightly colored strap, less baggage, and less things lined up to do.  The main difference between the June of 2000 trip and the June of 1999 trip was the Bed and Breakfast stays.  This time we planned on staying at a couple of hotels with the majority of the stays in B&Bs.  It worked out pretty well this way, and we were really surprised at how well everything went.  Anyway, read on to see how things went for us on our Europe 2000 trip.  You can use the links below to quickly jump to a subject of interest.

Castle Information - Check out this site to find info on various Castles in Europe including some of the ones we visited on this trip.

York - Covers some of our adventures while in York.
York Pictures - Some of the many pictures we took while on vacation.
The York Hole In The Wall Pub Ghost Picture - Don't miss this one.

Ireland - Some of our observations of Ireland.
Ireland Pictures - A few of the pictures we took while in Ireland.

London - A description of our second time in London for two years in a row.
London Pictures - Yet a few more pictures of London (see Europe 1999 for more).

 

 

London

What a rotten day for travel our first day turned out to be!  We thought that by leaving on a Thursday (which would put us in London on a Friday morning) we would be ahead of the game but it just didn't work out that way.  First of all, United Airlines couldn't have screwed things up more if they tried.  Our 777 plane from Denver was over 3 hours late when it left.  Big problem since our lay-over to catch the Washington (Dulles) flight to London only gave us an hour and a half before it was to leave for London.  United claimed that our late leave for Dulles was due to weather but a passenger on the plane called a friend in Dulles to see what the weather was like.  His friend said it looked perfect.  So much for United's excuse about the weather.  But then again, there was some truth to it since when we landed we discovered that our connecting 777 was still sitting at the gate right next to ours!  Poor United Airlines customer relations folks couldn't be bothered telling us that though.  The other plane was the one we were to catch after we arrived at Dulles and it turned out that it too had not left for London yet.  They weren't holding the plane for our flight, it too was being held up for weather.  Three hours it was held up.

Imagine our surprise when we arrived at Dulles and I happened to notice that there was a 777 parked next to ours at the gate, walked over and asked the gate person where the plane was headed and she said London.  No one on our plane bothered to tell us that the flight was still sitting on the ground.  I just happened to find out by accident.  Don't know how many others were left stranded waiting for a flight to London (the later flight was cancelled and all the ones on Friday were full). United Airlines dumb-asses.  After flying on United Airlines, we are back to recommending  British Airways  for the airline.  The American carriers could learn something about service if they'd bother to take a trip on British Airways.

So instead of arriving at Heathrow at 7:30AM on Friday, we landed at almost 12PM on Friday.  Wouldn't have been too big a deal but we were dead tired and didn't sleep much on the way over the Atlantic.  Basically, we had been up since 7AM on Thursday and found ourselves in London with no sleep about 5AM our time the next day.  That's about 23 hours with no sleep.  Problem was we still had the whole day ahead of us. Yikes.  It didn't really turn out as bad as I thought it would, just spent a heck of a long time on a plane that was sitting on the ground more than it was in the air (the Denver to Washington trip).  We headed for the el-cheapo Royal National Hotel in Bloomsbury (same place as 1999) and found that nothing had really changed in the previous year.  Kind of liked that feeling - knowing exactly where we were.  The key thing I learned about arriving after this long a journey is the "sunlight" angle.  That's right - sunlight!  By getting out into the sunlight we were able to straighten our bodies out so that we didn't have any jetlag.  None of us had jetlag on this trip.  We went on one of the double-decker hop-on/hop-off buses and toured London pretty much the whole day.  It worked out perfect for us.

Our stay in London consisted of resting on the first day and then leaving for York, and the return trip from Ireland.  Following Ireland, we spent a few days taking it easy and went to the British Museum again (since there is just so much to see and we wanted to see it one more time), and taking a hop-on/hop-off bus around the city again for just about an entire day.  We like to travel in June so this means that we will be in England during Wimbledon tennis championships.  In June of 1999 it was the Cricket finals, and this year the big deal was watching the Euro 2000 soccer championship games.  Both Wimbledon and the Euro 2000 kept us busy watching games in pubs, so there was a little less sight-seeing while in London this year.

York, England

I had reserved a car to drive to York, England on Saturday and we picked it up at the Hertz rental place about 4 blocks from the hotel (the Royal National Hotel in Bloomsbury).  That turned out to be somewhat easy since we just took a cab to the Hertz place (even though we could've walked, just too many blocks with the luggage).  We got this dopey Fiat and with a really crappy map in hand (the same one that screwed me up in 1999) we headed for York on the M1.  One lesson that once again I learned is to get good (real good) street maps of London that go as far as the M1.  Without it, you will find yourself asking directions a lot and this is not a fun thing to do in London.  We eventually got on the M1 and things proceeded very nicely for us.

The drive to York was something else.  I probably averaged around 95 MPH and had people passing me most of the time.  Never saw any police and just found myself clipping along sometimes up to 100MPH.  Just kept up with the traffic.

We really liked York.  We didn't know what to expect but found this old medieval town to be quite charming.  The whole town is basically intact since medieval times with the Minster (church) being the main site of interest.  It is a beautiful old church that was spared the carnage by Henry VIII when the Pope wouldn't grant him a divorce. He basically tore the roofs off of the Catholic churches throughout the U.K. which pretty much made it impossible to congregate since it does have a tendency to rain in the U.K. except during the summer months.  We stayed at an excellent B&B named "Feversham Lodge" and it was up the hill requiring about a 15 minute walk to the center of York (check out the picture of Feversham Lodge).  York isn't all that big a town and being there can make you wonder why the place was even built there in the first place.  It is somewhat out in the middle of nowhere and is quite a ways north of London.  I guess it goes back to when the Romans occupied the area. Either way, it's a very pretty place and the people are very nice.

Jorvik
We toured the city and stayed at the Feversham Lodge for about a week, walking in to town each day (if the link above for the Feversham Lodge doesn't work try emailing the owners).  We visited Jorvik - an underground Viking village that was discovered in a non-acidic mud that kept many remnants intact, the Railway museum, and a ride on an old steam engine railroad that takes you high up in to the mountains.  Castle Howard is also nearby if you'd like to visit the castle.

York Minster
The York Minster (church) dates back to around 1220 A.D.  Part of the church suffered a fire in 1984 although you won't really be able to tell where some of the church that was destroyed in the fire occurred. It is really something to hear the bells toll.  There are six new bells with the deepest toned clock chime in the U.K.  Quite something to hear.  York Minster is really famous not only for its medieval history, but also the many windows and the overall architecture of the Minster.  The Nave (the place where they hold services) was decorated from 1280 to 1350 and is utterly spectacular.

Steam Train Ride
The steam train ride is known as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.  It was quite fun considering that it's a rare opportunity to ride such an old steam-driven train.  We boarded at Pickering and got to see Goathland and Grosmont.  While in Grosmont I asked a young fellow at a curio store what people did in Grosmont.  His answer was simple - "leave."  I found this to be an odd answer since the countryside is really quite beautiful, but to a young fellow working in an oddity shop I guess the grass looks greener elsewhere.  Looked like a very serene place to live with probably not much else going on other than sheep and the old steam train.

While in York we ate at pubs virtually every day except a couple of days that we spent eating at Indian restaurants.  We never had a problem with the food and definitely enjoyed the pubs.  Especially "The Hole In The Wall" pub.  If you stop in there, be sure and ask them about the Americans that got a picture of their ghost.  That's right - a ghost.  

Hole In The Wall Ghost Picture

You can check out my Hole In The Wall Ghost Picture page to see the details of the ghost that we discovered while taking a picture in the pub.

Go by the pub, order some pints and maybe you too will see "The Hole In The Wall Ghost."  Please note that this picture is not to be copied or used without my permission as such pictures are quite rare.  The picture has not been tampered with in any way.  It is exactly as I captured it.  Before you send me email telling me that it looks like "flashback" from the camera flash, study it a lot more closely.  I have had professional photographers examine this photo and they all agree that it is a ghostly image of some sort - not a flashback.  Note that the "ghost" appears to be between my kids and me rather than emanating off of the window that is behind them (the window is where the original hole in the wall existed).  Also note the strange blackish shadow.  It isn't a shadow at all.  Just like the white image, you can see through the edges of the shadow.  One photographer told me that he thinks the black area is part of the ghost too.  Very strange indeed.

In conclusion, the trip to York was well worth it and I think anyone that visits England should make it up to York before they call their trip complete.  Be sure and stop by The Hole In The Wall pub too.  Who knows, they may even have a picture of the ghost since I sent them the original jpeg photo (the same as you can see here at my site).

Go here to view pictures of York.

 

Ireland

Ireland was quite a surprise and not at all what we expected.  We thought it would be somewhat like England.  Not at all like England.  We left London from Gatwick and were supposed to fly on Aer Lingus (an Ireland airline) via a 737 jet.  Turns out that Aer Lingus uses British Airways as a partner and the plane wasn't a 737, but a much smaller jet.  The other thing they didn't tell us was that carry-on luggage shouldn't weigh more than 20 pounds or so.  This meant that the carry-on luggage I had would not be allowed and was checked in to the luggage part of the plane.  This kind of bugged us since we specifically booked the plane thinking it was a 737 and would be safer than a smaller jet.

Misleading Plane Info
This also meant that the carry-on baggage that contained our more expensive stuff and things we wouldn't normally want to put with regular baggage ended up going there anyway (things like digital video cameras, medicine, toiletries, etc.).  This was because we were still limited to the number of carry-ons but the primary carry-on bag we use would not be allowed on the plane (didn't seem to matter what it weighed, they saw it as too big for the overhead bin).  I really didn't care for this tactic that was used.  Several folks saw the plane (it isn't even a British Airways plane, but another carrier that supplies the plane) and refused to fly on it.  It seemed new and safe and the flight attendants were very nice, but if I wanted this type of plane I would have booked it.  Kind of a bait and switch tactic that was used, but there was nothing we could do about it.  The upside was that they loaded our carry-on there at the gate; the downside was that we had to wait in Ireland to get the bag at the baggage claim area.  Really didn't care for this as it could have gotten lost at the airport since it was going from the plane to the baggage claim area.

The security when flying to Ireland is something else.  Not only do you show your passport when you first check in to the airport at Gatwick for the trip to Ireland, but they take your picture and then compare it later at the gate to ensure it is you that is getting on the plane.  We definitely felt as though Ireland had a good idea of who was going in to their country (at least by air).  Experienced the same kind of rigor when leaving Ireland for England.

Arriving At Dublin
We arrived at the Dublin airport and walked to the Hertz car rental place.  Of course they didn't have the car we had ordered (this is a common complaint for car rentals in Ireland and the U.K.), but gave us a model that was supposed to be a step up.  It was called a Mitsubishi "Space Wagon" although I don't think it was necessarily roomy.  The passenger side (the left side of the car) was extremely scratched up and we made sure it was noted on the paperwork before we took the car.  After we started driving the car around the roads of Ireland we discovered why the car was so scratched up on the left side.  It's because the roads are so darn narrow that you are constantly smashing into bushes that are close to the road's edge as you move over as far as you can to let oncoming cars get by you.  In any case, we headed to our first stop at Abrae Court which turned out to be a nice enough B&B south of Dublin in the Rathgar area.  I don't have a website listing for them, but their phone number is 01 4922242.

Bad Roads
If you think the roads in London are hard to find your way around, you should check out Ireland!  Without being overly critical, there were no road signs at all to speak of, and there doesn't seem to be any maps available that show you the detailed roads in Dublin or any other major city.  I can honestly say that I got lost in every major city starting from Dublin and heading South and all the way around to Dingle and then back to Dublin through the center of Ireland.  I didn't really get lost in London that bad (mostly made wrong turns, but wasn't lost) but Ireland was another story.  They don't put the names of their streets on the buildings or on signs either for that matter.  When you stop to ask for directions everything is "just straight up ahead" regardless of where you need to go.  Folks were very friendly though, so it comes with the territory.  I guess to someone that knows the area it may seem "straight up ahead" but the road never remained straight, always had a fork in the road, and where I needed to be going sure as heck wasn't up ahead.  Lost in all the big cities I tell you, constantly lost.  Having said this, Ireland is a nice place to find yourself lost.

Irish Pubs
Like York, the pubs in Dublin are great too, with one difference being that the cost of just about everything in Ireland is much cheaper than England.  Very reasonable and about the same quality of food.  The Irish Pound (known as a Punt) is worth just a little more than an American Dollar, so Americans will find the country inexpensive when compared to the U.K.  Remember that Ireland is not part of the U.K. and they are proud of this fact.  Speaking of pubs, we visited Guinness while in Dublin but found it to be rather disappointing.  First of all, you have to pay to take the tour although at the end you do get a "free" pint of Guinness.  Except for the gift shop, you could pretty much skip this tour as it really isn't all that interesting if you've ever toured a brewery.  Of course if you are in Dublin, you would probably regret it if you didn't go, especially when all of your friends asked you if you saw the Guinness brewery and you had to tell them no.  The Guinness stout was much creamier in Dublin than what we get here in the U.S. and seemed to have a higher alcohol content as well. Update: the Irish have switched to the Euro unlike the U.K. so the Punt is no longer in use as their currency.  The price has doubled as well.

Book Of Kells
Dublin is a nice capital city and felt very safe.  There are some modern buildings and the downtown area is packed with people.  Once at Abrae Court, we rode the easy-to-use bus system to get around.  We visited Trinity College and viewed a couple of the Book of Kells and found this to be very interesting (mostly how they actually made the books - very colorful).  There is also the Dublin Castle but we just didn't have enough time to do the visit justice so we skipped it.  We took a bus tour of the entire city and found that you could easily see the whole city in about 3 hours.  The main theme that you hear about in Ireland is the revolution from England.  It becomes clear after viewing the city and really throughout the country that the Irish were really kept down by the English.  There are hardly any castles that aren't left in ruins, and the country has a lot of rural people trying to make a living with key port cities alive and busy.  We didn't visit Northern Ireland on this visit but may at another time in the future.

Waterford
We left Dublin after a couple of days and headed for Waterford.  This is where they make Waterford Crystal and a tour of the factory was very interesting.  Lots of hand-crafted labor goes in to each piece of crystal.  It was clear (no pun intended) why their crystal is such a collectable.  We bought several pieces while there and they were much cheaper than buying the same pieces over here in the U.S.A.  I would highly recommend touring the factory.  We stayed at a very nice B&B named Cliffhouse B&B.  A beautiful view of the ocean and more of what I would say was an upscale B&B although the prices were in alignment with all the other B&Bs.  It is actually located in Tramore near Waterford and local places to eat are not very far away.  Another short drive down the road will bring you to the cliffs where folks dive in the rather cold North Atlantic Ocean from a diving board fastened to part of the lower rocks.  I wouldn't do it due to the cold water, but there were folks there giving it a try.  Very nice rooms at Cliffhouse as well as the owners that were quite helpful and as the rest of our Ireland B&Bs - a great breakfast.

Kissing The Blarney Stone
We left Waterford after a couple of days and headed to Blarney.  Once again we got extremely lost in Cork (Blarney is just outside of Cork), but finally made our way to our B&B.  We visited the Blarney Castle the next day and found this to be extremely interesting.  Even though the castle is really an ancient ruin, there is still much to see.  It sits on about 400 acres of scenic land with trees that are nearly a thousand years old.  It is probably one of the most visited places in Ireland, especially for those that want to "kiss the Blarney Stone."  We too got to kiss the Blarney Stone.  For those of you that don't have a good vision of the Blarney Stone it is basically just a stone in the wall near the top of the castle.  You have to lay on your back with your head towards the outer wall and an assistant helps you scoot backwards and you sort of lay upside down to kiss the stone while you hang on to a couple of hand rails that keep you steady.  Check out the pictures of Chris and Steffie kissing the Blarney Stone to get a feel for what is involved with the "kissing process."  We got there early enough that it wasn't much of a wait but this place fills up with tourists rather fast.  I noticed that my calves were sore for about two days after climbing the rather narrow and high stairs from the bottom of the castle to the top to see the Blarney Stone.  The stone stair well is part of the castle and goes straight up.  Along with going to the Waterford Crystal factory and touring the Guinness factory, this is probably a "must see" thing to do on your trip to Ireland.  We stayed at an excellent, modern, B&B named Ashlee Lodge in Blarney.  You should seriously consider this B&B as it is very clean, the owners are very nice, and the breakfast was excellent.  Not too far from the Blarney Castle.

Dingle
After Blarney, we headed to the West coast of Ireland to a small village named Dingle.  Dingle and Slea Head are the most western parts of Europe.  Beautiful rolling hills dotted with sheep and a small city to sit back and just relax.  If you need to really get away from it all, this is the place to go.  There won't be any distractions since the beauty of the place isn't in the town per se, but can be found in the beautiful green hillsides resting above the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  The drive there will scare the heck out of you since once again the roads are extremely narrow and in some places you are several hundred feet above the ocean below, but the view is spectacular.  We even got to herd sheep and some cows with our car when we were leaving the area.  The herders just opened the gates, the animals went out onto the street, and they let the cars sort of herd the animals along down the street.  It wasn't annoying or anything, just a little different.  You should also check out the "Beehive" huts where monks lived an extremely simple life.  You need to drive from Dingle towards Slea Head and you'll see them on your right.  The place where we stopped to see the Beehive huts was owned by a family.  An elderly lady saw us come walking up towards the Beehive huts, I asked her if there was a charge and she said it would cost 1 punt each.  Not bad since this is how they probably make money on this windswept area.  The land was very steep and you quickly realize why raising sheep is about all they can do.  The soil is very shallow and although quite green with grass, there are many rocks below the surface.  It is this abundance of rocks that they use to create small walls for their property lines.  When they want to move sheep from one area to another they simply remove some of the stones from the wall, move the sheep, and then put the wall back up.  We chose an excellent B&B for our stay in Dingle named Mount Eagle Lodge.  The owners (Eric and Eleanor Prestage) were very friendly people and made an excellent breakfast for us too.  The view from their B&B can't be beat!  Very pretty area there in Dingle.

We left Dingle a couple of days later and headed back through Limerick towards Dublin where we stayed at the Abrae Court B&B for one last night.  One place you should consider staying in Limerick is at Avondoyle Country Home B&B.  Be sure to check out their website too since there are many links and very informative information for stays in Ireland in general.  After spending another night in Rathgar at the Abrae Court, we returned to London for a few days before returning to the U.S.A.

Summary Of Ireland Experience
Chris and I were trying to think of a way to summarize what we thought about Ireland and the answer came to us - they try real hard!  They are the friendliest people we've met but they really don't have much in the way of historical buildings and a legacy of wealth.  I was reading an article about the Irish that described what a census taker found in the late 1800s.  A huge number of people still had mud floors.  That really illustrates how poor the country was when compared to England.  In any case, they have come a long way and are a proud people - rightfully so.  It's just too bad they were held back for so many years by the English (uh-oh, I can feel some email coming my way).  Of course there were all of those Viking invasions that didn't help out much either, but just think - without the Irish, the written word would not have been revived and no telling how long Europe would have been set back due to the Dark Ages.

Would we recommend that you go to Ireland?  When we first got there we were really disappointed since we were used to England and France.  The roads were annoyingly bad to the point of being dangerous, the lack of road signs made getting lost rather routine, and only a couple of the castles weren't in ruins.  I would say that if you haven't been to Europe before (especially the U.K.), you should probably go to Ireland first.  This way you won't be unfairly comparing Ireland with other places such as those found in the U.K., and you won't be disappointed when you don't find the same level of historical sites to visit.  It is a beautiful green country and the people were always extremely nice.  The cost was better than anywhere else we've been and all of the B&Bs were great.  The highlights of our trip, such as: Waterford Crystal factory, Blarney Castle, and Dingle could not have been experienced without going there.  So yes, I would recommend that you go, but beware of the driving experience (and plan to do plenty of driving) and don't plan on seeing many of the same kinds of historical sites such as would be seen in other parts of the U.K.  Ireland is more about the people, their striving for the better life, and the beautiful countryside than anything else.  One other thing about Ireland is that they are very open to change.  They embrace high-tech stuff and many international companies invest in Ireland as a place for their manufacturing and even software development.  The people there seemed to be well educated and as I said before - very friendly.  Ireland helps by way of reducing taxes for those kind of investments.  As I said, you really can't beat the people of Ireland - very friendly and the island really is the "Emerald Isle" due its very lush green hillsides.

Go here to view some pictures of Ireland.

Check out my page on European trip advice to align expectations that you may have about traveling to Europe as well as ways to make your travel experience a little simpler.

 

 

 

 

All Graphics & Text Steve Corley

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