England & Ireland - 2000
Welcome to our 2000 trip
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.
Information - Check out this site to find info on various Castles in
Europe including some of the ones we visited on this trip.
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.
- Some of our observations of Ireland.
Ireland Pictures - A few of the pictures we took while in Ireland.
- A description of our second time in London for two years in a row.
- Yet a few more pictures of London (see Europe 1999 for more).
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.
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.
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.
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
Hole In The Wall Ghost
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
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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Graphics & Text © Steve Corley
pictures you see were created by Steve Corley unless otherwise
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