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Saturday, March 19, 2011

From the east to the west coasts of Scotland

We ate breakfast downstairs at the hotel. Greg must have picked up a sinus bug. He came down late but we still enjoyed our breakfast.

We walked to our bus stop at 8:45 am. We met our bus driver Bill and boarded our tour bus. We headed west towards Loch Lomond and River Clyde. We had a short bus tour of Glasgow to see this industrial giant. It was a mixture of both old and new buildings. (I personally like Edinburgh better because most of the buildings are still old.) We stopped at the Glasgow Cathedral even though they we reconstructing it. It was built before the 13th century. After a short self-guided tour of the cathedral we reboarded the bus to exit the Glasgow. This is where Bill told us about the Duke of Wellington Statue. Apparently the teens in the city put an orange street cone on his head every night only for the police take it down every day. It was there, on his head, as we drove by.

We left Glasgow and headed for the River Clyde. It does heavy building as well as shipbuilding. Our next stop brought us to the bonnie banks of the Loch Lomond. We took a boat cruise of the loch (lake). It’s the biggest expanse of fresh water in Great Britain. It’s also known as the Gateway to the Highlands. There were many old buildings and sights to see from the loch. One in particular was the Cameron House. It was built in the 18th century. They converted it into a hotel. Lots of American stars have stayed there. There we also saw the mountains. They were snow covered and so pretty. (This resembled the Rocky Mountains to me…oh how I miss my Rockies.) The cruise was a cold ride and luckily there was an upper deck outside and a lower deck downstairs. We all started out outside and ended up inside.

Next, we came to a village called Aberfoyle. It was a quaint little village and we stopped there to have lunch. Luckily they also had a shopping barn like store for the shoppers in our group. (Even though I’m not a shopper I am still having a BLAST seeing the sights.) I liked the fact that they had sheep, ponies, and chickens to occupy JD’s time.

On the drive around the lochs we saw lots of sheep and some Scottish bulls. (These were not the famous lochs where the Lochness Monster "Nessie"was spotted.) We were even fortunate enough to see a mom and a baby. The driver was surprised because that usually doesn’t happen until April. We drove a bit further up the mountain and saw Scottish heather covering the landscape. There is jewelry here that they make out of this heather wood. We were told July is when the heather flowers bloom. This was the backdrop for Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy and the Lady on the Lake.

On the way down from the mountain we drove through the village of Callander and we passed the Castle Doune. This 14th century castle was used in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Our last stop was Stirling. We visited the Stirling Castle. It was under construction as well. This made for a short walk around. We all were super surprised at the end of the tour because they were having a bagpipe competition. Nothing less than PRICELESS! I certainly don’t know how these people can walk around in kilts when the weather is so “fresh.”

This area was famous because of William Wallace. There was a 200 foot memorial there, but some of us didn’t see it very well.

Our drive back home was short because he had a CD on that played Scottish music and some of us dosed off. This was a great opportunity to get warm again. We got off the bus at our hotel and went out to eat a Wanna Burger again. (That spicy chicken with guacamole rocks!)

The rest of our night included hot baths and a movie in the room. I hope Greg gets to feeling better soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The princess (me) spent the day at the castle

Happy Birthday to me! It worked out great that I would be in Europe for my birthday. My two men bought me a new Willow Tree figurine of a mother rocking a child under a quilt. The figurine is called The Quilt. We met up for breakfast and Greg gave me a beautiful sweater for my birthday. (Thanks again Greg.)

Today we toured the Edinburgh Castle. We hopped on the tour bus and got off at the Castle stop. It was so cold. I asked one of the castle workers if this was cold to her or normal. She said, “I’m not going to lie, it’s freezing here today.” The castle was not too far of a walk up the hill. Jeff and I thought it would be longer. The three NC Hyder’s walked to the top and Greg and Lyndell caught a ride in the car available. We met at the top by the cannon walls. It was not exactly set up like I thought it would have been, but some in our party of five missed the living area of the castle. We got split up at the first sight or building. Too many stair prevented Lyndell from going up so Greg and Lyndell found the elevator. We saw all the historical museums and such. It was set up really nicely.

There was a bit of stress involved for both the three NC Hyder’s and Greg and Lyndell. We were split up from the very beginning looking for one another the entire time. When we finally net up we realized the three NC Hyder’s finished first. We looked around and around for Greg and Lyndell but were unable to locate them. Thinking they finished and went on shopping we looked outside the castle gates at the shops. On the way we ran into a William Wallace character. I took a picture of JD with him. He was so realistic. Realizing they were not shopping we headed back to the castle. I found an American family that had an email type phone. We emailed Greg but we typed in the wrong address. We had the draw bridge gate worker radio the castle staff looking for both Greg and Lyndell but they all responded negatively. They let me go back in for one last look at that’s when I saw Greg. (Reunited, and it feels so good…) We had lunch together and headed back down the road for more shopping. (Ugh…I’d rather do a math lesson.) But it’s not all about me…others like to shop.

JD found a “Games Workshop” and played a fantasy game with one of the workers. I guess maybe I could best explain it as a milder version of Dungeon and Dragons type game. JD had such a good time playing this game. He even won against the worker. Grammy bought JD a game there for his birthday present. It’s the starter version where he has to assemble all the players and he even has to paint them.

So much walking. (My buns are super tight!) We hailed a cab and went back to our hotel until dinner. The next surprise was dinner out for my birthday celebration.  It was at a fancy Italian restaurant. The food was great as was the company.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Edinburgh Tour Bus Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We all kicked ourselves when we realized we had a scheduling error, when we found out we would not be in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day. Lyndell and Greg were very playful when they stepped off the “lift” (elevator). They both had their St. Patrick’s Day head gear on. It was too cute.

We ate breakfast at our hotel called Caledonian. The buffet was slightly different, but still nourishing. All of you should be VERY proud of me. I tried Haggis. It was truly not bad but I couldn’t get past the fact that it was sheep intestines and oats cooked in a sheep’s stomach. I guess my though was you can’t come to Scotland and not try the Haggis. In Ireland I did try some of Lyndell’s fish too, but I just couldn’t get past the smell. It was halibut and then cod.

We hopped on the Edinburgh tour bus and saw many historical sights. I can’t say what my favorite was. Most all of the old buildings are stone with green algae on them. We have an excellent view of the Edinburgh castle at our hotel. There are so many churches and monuments.

We rode all the way around listening to the prerecorded commentary and then got off to do a bit of shopping. I absolutely hate shopping. There were so many sights just yelling my name. We took lots of pictures. Greg and Lyndell took a cab back to the hotel and the three NC Hyder’s walked back. The three of us relaxed in the room for bit. Jeff got up and took JD to the indoor pool here. JD thought it was “good.”

Later we met up with Greg and Lyndell and found out they walked the entire Princess St shopping walk. Lyndell is such a trooper. The three NC Hyder’s went out to find the candy shop and some dinner. We went to a place called Wanna Burger? The pubs here don’t allow children in them.

I think collectively, we think the Irish were much friendlier. And the weather in Ireland was a bit warmer. The bars were hopping this evening and drunks were outside the hotel.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back to Dublin and onto Scotland

When we returned from dinner last night the beds were pulled back with chocolates on the pillow. It was so nice to sleep in a king sized bed. I felt like a princess. Jeff brought me coffee before I woke up. (Thank you!) The hotel also brought in a twin size bed for JD and had it pulled back for the night. They also left him gummy bears instead of chocolate like they did for us.

We all met up for a casual breakfast at the hotel. It was a nice table set by the window overlooking the golf course and the duck pond. After breakfast we toured the grounds. Our family of three wandered through the woods. When we came back we met up with Lyndell and Greg. We visited the golf shop and purchased some gifts. Now we are relaxing in our luxury rooms waiting for the drive back to Dublin.

The drive back to Dublin was much quicker and much safer. We stayed on the main highway verses the back roads. We checked into the airport and had a late lunch in the airport. We fly out of Dublin at 6:30 pm.
We have arrived in Edinburgh Scotland.  It's kind of foggy and colder than Ireland.  But the view of the Edinburgh Castle is beautiful.  The three NC Hyder's went to dinner at McDonald's of all places.We're showering and sleeping now.  Only to start again at 8:00 am tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Off to Moher Cliffs and the Castle

Today’s events led us to traveling across country in an SUV. First we ate breakfast downstairs. Then we hailed two cabs. One took Greg and Lyndell to the Hilton to store our excess luggage and the other one took the 3 NC Hyder’s to the airport to rent the SUV. Jeff and I both have our international driver’s licenses and experience driving on the left side. Our first problem was trying to understand the “easy and clear” instructions the locals wrote or told us. Jeff ended up turning around two times in the first ten minutes. We met up with Lyndell and Greg at the hotel. Second problem, finding reverse. (Found it.)

So now we were on our way to Moher Cliffs with one nervous driver, two navigators, and three backseat drivers. I performed two functions. (Poor Jeff.) We scrambled our way over the country at a rapid 120 KPH. We stopped to get drinks and such and found out pretty that once you get off you can’t get back on without backtracking, turning around, and paying another toll fee. There were many sights we saw but did not/could not stop to see. Who could forget cork screw road? I’m not sure how long it took us to get there but it was well worth the 159 steps to climb to the top of the hill. (Yep, 159!) Lyndell is doing just fine with the two men holding her arm here and there.

We had a late lunch at the cliffs and toured the gift shop. Then we headed back down the hill in search of the Dromoland Castle for the nights accommodations. The castle is a 1500 century castle on the outside but 2011 on the inside. We separated for our dinner. Lyndell and Greg went to the formal dinner and the 3 NC Hyder’s went to the casual dinner. It was absolutely wonderful for all of us. The dinners were grand and the comfort levels were met for all of us.

Tomorrow we will be traveling back to the Dublin airport and flying off to Edinburgh, Scotland. So if you don’t hear from us for a while that’s why.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our day on the train

We gathered for breakfast at our hotel. It’s been the same items on the buffet every time we eat. But it’s good and satisfying. After breakfast we went on yet another Dublin stroll in search of the DART train to Killiney. We got there in time and waited for our train. We got on and got off at the next stop. Apparently we got a local commuter train. (Mind the gap.)  We jumped back on the next south bound train. This 30-40 minute trip allowed us to look at the beautiful gardens in people’s backyards, the Port of Dublin, and other sites around the eastern coast. This train eventually took us to the quaint little village of Killiney. We got off the train and took pictures of the beach. Then we took off for a slow paced uphill then downhill trek. We kept saying, “What we go down we have to climb up.” We did a u-turn after we turned a corner and realized it was another mile or more without knowing what that would take us to. We were looking for shopping and lunch places. There were some quaint houses there. One had the name of Narnia. This is also the same village Bono lives in. We walked back to the beach and JD and I walked/ran down the stairs and steps to get to a rock beach with very little sand. The water was cold but not freezing. (Luckily JD did not take his Uncle Greg’s bet to “jump in naked.”) JD spent a lot of time throwing rocks in the water. We climbed back up to the picture taking party of Greg, Lyndell, and Jeff.

We all got back on the train and got off again in the small but historical village called Darkey. We ate lunch and did some small shopping. (More bakery items.) Jeff, JD, and I went to where a small castle was still standing. We had the best time there. There was an actress there performing and storytelling of what it was like way back in the 1500’s. “Lord Jonathan” as he was called by the mistress, had an absolute blast. Truth be told so did Jeff and I. Yet another wonderful memory to add to “the trip of a lifetime.”

We all got back on the north bound train headed for Dublin. (I found Kinder eggs in the train station.) Greg took JD to the movie Battle Los Angles while Jeff, Lyndell, and I napped. (Thanks again Greg.) We woke up and walked to the Pizza restaurant were we met Greg and JD after the movie. They were not there even after two hours of movie time so Jeff went to find out what time the movie ended. He was told “half ten.” (Um, what?) It now 7:30 pm, what’s half ten? (7:40 pm.)

The festive evening plans for all of us were to go back to our rooms to “pack light.” All baggage going to Scotland has to be less than 20 kilograms. Packing and planning seemed a tad bit stressful. The level was slightly elevated, but truly not bad at all.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2nd day in Dublin

ALWAYS look left...pedestrians here get no respect.  In some cases drivers speed up. 

Breakfast at the hotel was spent sharing stories of how tired we were, how hot the rooms were, and reminiscing about experiences from last night.  I forgot to tell you about the french Au Par that spoke with Jeff last night. She was having difficulty understanding the dessert menu.  The first thing that came to Jeff's mind was comedian Ken Davis' story learning to snow ski.  

We have been walking since 9:00 am this morning and it is now 5:30 pm.  We sat down approximately four times since then.  We took off at around 9:00 am to hop off the bus at certain stops to look at more sights.  Our goal was to go to visit Trinity College to look at the Book of Kells, but it was closed until 12:00 pm.  We walked across the street and visited a bookstore.  That's when we found out nearly every museum would be closed until 12:00 or even 2:00 pm.  We got back on the bus and got off in the shopping district.  Can you believe they were closed too?  We sat down and had a nice warm cup of cappuccino.  After that Greg went to look at a hotel and the rest of us got back on the bus and headed out for the Viking & Medieval Museum in downtown Dublin. Greg would meet us there when he was done looking at the hotel.  The Viking & Medieval museum was a wax type museum showcasing of course the Irish Viking and medieval eras.  It was three floors tall.  However, according to our favorite bus driver Joe "those that are in good health could climb to the bell tower to get an excellent view of Dublin."  JD and I climbed the 75 stairs up to look out.  (What a climb!)  We got to the top and realized we didn't have the 1 Euro to use the view finders.  Bummer, because I'm not walking down and up and down again.

After locating Jeff's hat in the museum we headed out walking in search of a bite to eat.  We ended up in another pub.  The food was sandwiches and soup, but it was good and nice to sit down. Have I mentioned how cold it is here? (But we're not complaining.) Poor Jeff and JD had to sit on the top deck of a bus all the way in the back this morning because the heated lower level where Lyndell sat and I stood was full.  After we ate we headed back to Trinity College and saw the wonderful works of four scribes and three artists; the Book of Kells was written in 9th century and was the four gospels.

This is where Lyndell and Greg parted ways with the NC Hyder's.  They walked on back toward the hotel and we headed out for a picture with a person dressed up like a leprechaun I saw earlier on our bus trip.  He was still there and we got a wonderful picture.  Next we headed on another brisk walk to the National Museum of Ireland.  It's what the kids here affectionately call the dead museum.  It was full of stuffed animals of the world and animals of Ireland.

We gathered for dinner in one of the three restaurants in our hotel.  Tonight we all ate Chinese food.  It was filling.  But wait about an hour to see if I post again saying I'm hungry.  So that's all we're doing tonight.  Thank goodness because we're all tired!