In addition to two flat tires during the trip, I broke the camera late into it. Just to fill in the blanks, for my own sake, I slapped up some stolen photos of places I went but had no pictures for. This included the first few days in Scotland for some unknown reason. I may stumble onto more pics later. Most of what I have left are some nice photos from the Ring of Kerry, Rock of Cashel, and the Cliffs of Moher
I also threw a few cuban cigar reviews in there... haha. I'm guessing this is me at my heaviest too, roughly 260ish.
Some excerpts from the photo descriptions:
11/12: Arrived at Leeds airport, picked up a rental. Damn roundabouts everywhere and not a straight street to be found. Why can't these people drive on the correct side of the street. Bent my first rim right off the bat. Limped into a cheap hotel for the night.
11/12 - 11/13: Drove into Scotland, and made it to Edinburg. Stone walls, cattle, sheep, rolling hills and beautifully trim forests everywhere. Beautiful views and freezing cold temperatures.
11/13 - 11/14: Edinburg is a beautiful, clean and lively city. VERY european. Incredible nightlife. Even with sub-freezing temperatures there were beatiful women everywhere running around the streets in mini-skirts. The Edinburg Castle dominates the view from pretty much everywhere. We took a day trip to check out the castle and an evening trip into the underground passages and old structures that are now buried beneath the modern city. Very interesting town and a hilly one.
11/15 - 11/16: Glasgow is another vibrant city but not as clean as Edinburg, and it's mostly flat. One can't help but notice the prevalence of Indians. Many curry shops, etc. We found out that in southern counties of England, Indian business make up over 20% of the commerce. We checked out the Glasgow Museum and some other sites.
11/17 - 11/18: Flew into Dublin and headed to the Guinness Brewery. The Brewery is a great stop with a museum of the history of Guinness, along with all their ad campaigns. It rained like crazy and the streets were small and a little tawdry. We also went to The Dublin Castle (originally built by King John) which was a monument to the British administration. A bit odd and it makes sense that it doesn't seem to be a wildly popular attraction. Ceiling murals, viceroy paintings, subpar grandeur. Dublin is a very busy place. If you can stay dry get a bike, or take the bus. Residential areas within 5KM are pleasant but getting into the main city is hellacious, especially at 'rush hours'. Just missed being in an accident.
Went to Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral and St. Michael's Tower (which is connected to Christ Curch Cathedral). St. Patrick's Cathedral is situated on the oldest Christian site in Dublin. A church had stood here since the 5th Century. The current church was rebuilt in the 1300s. The first university was also founded in St. Patricks in 1320 and lasted here for 200 years. This is an incredible place with almost every square foot covered with something of interest. A living antique with stained glass intracacies and a huge museum full of archeological surprises (Armagh chalice, Tara Brooch, St. Patrick's Bell)
Went to Kilmainham Gaol, or the Jail. Unlike the Dublin Castle, the Kilmainham is celebrated as a primary residence of many Irish heroes and a mainstay of rebellion. This is where most of the famous terrorists/patriots of Ireland spent a good deal of their time, as 'guests' of the British government. It is virtually a shrine. In many places in Ireland one might note the glamorous trappings of history being underempasized while the dark, gloomy and tawdry is held up as Ireland's pride and glory.
11-19: Glendalough (Wicklow county). It is hard to imagine the throngs that once frequented this holy place and what life here was like. It is an inspirational scene, not only for the natural beauty but the historical significance. The is where St. Kevin founded a monastery in the 5th Century A.D. and it became a central location for pilgrims from that time on. Glendalough was frequently raided by the Normans. Notice the round tower, which was not only a landmark, bell tower and watchtower, but a place of refuge in times of attack. Monks would carry artifacts and other valuables into the tower and pull up the ladder, hoping to save themselves and these items from the pillagers.
After a pleasant drive we stopped for the night in Waterford, which seemed like mostly a tourist trap and not a very charming one (to be fair, we did not see much of it). We stopped at a really fine bar, T&H Dooley's, which was the oldest in Waterford having been licensed for over 300 years. The lounge wall was an old viking wall and part of a tower that was over 800 years old. So far, the Irish have not been the 'friendliest people in the world'. Maybe that's just the folks who deal with tourists, but I'd have to give the title to the Scottish who were incredibly friendly. Stayed at the Bridge Hotel. After a night of too much heat and noisy neighbors, we managed to see the Waterford Crystal Factory and then the ROCK OF CASHEL, the Hore Abbey, and the priory.
11-20: The Rock of Cashel! Cashel town is very charmingand the 'Rock' is an ominous sight looming over an entire valley of lush green fields. Cashel came into prominence in the 4th or 5th Century, as a royal seat of the Eoghanacht (the southern counterpart to the northern Ui Neills at Tara), a fortress, and eventually a religious site. In the tenth century Brian Boru and his family referred to themselves as the Kings of Cashel. The earliest remaining edifice here is the perfectly preserved round tower. The Chapel of King Cormac was consecrated in 1134. The cathedral was built between 1235 and 1270.
The day started out rainy and overcast but by the time we got to Cashel it had stopped and the sun came out for the first time since we arrived in Ireland. Despite the rains Ireland can't be beat for the lush green beauty. Even in settled areas, it can not be denied. During the trip I took several panoramic photos of the coutryside as they were every bit as wondrous as the bounty of historical sites.
While driving in ireland, there has been roadwork almost every 10 miles. We couldn't expect to get anywhere without some kind of delay. Also, there's mud everywhere along the narrow country roads. ALL the cars here have a standard ring of mud that goes about halfway up. Every gas station has a hot steam cleaning machine/sprayer available to quickly clean up the largest pieces of muck. Brick houses everywhere. Stayed at the Dundrum House Hotel.
11-21: Stopped at Ballyporeen to see The Ronald Reagan Pub. Talked to a local girl who took our photo about her trip to Cape Cod, etc. She seemed to be hanging out on the street watching for tourists. Rained like hell the whole day. Ended up in Killarney tonight, a tourist mecca, stayed at Edviston Hotel. Went to some shops.
11-22: Great weather - first full day of sunshine and a pefect day to drive the Ring of Kerry, a 2-3 hourdrive around the penisula on the west coast. Not only was the weather in our favor, but it was a Sunday and all the locals were off the road for religious services. Early morning Killarney was a ghost town. At times during our drive we were the only car in sight.
Remarkable scenery. Driving the Ring is like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, again & again for 2-3 hours. Dramatic hills, outcroppings, rivers, waterfalls, beaches, bays, smaller peninsulas and green carpetted valleys carefully divided with small stone walls and dotted with sheep. We stopped at two beaches, one that was only a beach during low tide becoming several small rock islands as the tide rose (the white strand). Also stopped at Staige Fort. The entire route is sprinkled with megalithic tombs, stones, forts and even some castles. It would take days to see it all.
Staige Fort is the best preserved circle fort in Ireland with incredible views of valley, hills and ocean.
Ring of Kerry is not the safest of roads. Narrow, potholes, roadwork, mud, farm equipment, crossing streets... and sheep. Got a flat in the middle of nowhere.
11-23: Visited the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. We drove all over Clare today, seeing the Cliffs of Moher, O'Brien's Tower, Quin Abbey and The Burren (vast gray hills of broken rock with only thin lines of vegetation inhabiting the cracks). Spotted the Aran Islands from the Cliffs of Moher (I think). If not an actual habitable Aran Island, IT IS in the correct general area and direction from the cliffs. The actual Aran Islands may be a bit further out.
It was a banner day as I not only dropped the camera at the entrance to a Castle that was closed anyway, but I lost our bank card. The castle was kind of neat, in that it wasn't really an established tourist attraction... it just happened to be there (as many things are in Ireland). Not every old rock can be a tourist attraction in Ireland or you'd have stops on every block. After Moher, we continued on to the Burren, Quin Abbey and Dysea O'Dea Castle. We stayed at an actual castle tonight, the Dromoland Castle.
11-24: Drove to Navan and went to Clonmacnoise in County Offaly which dates back almost 1,500 years. St. Ciaran chose the site in 545 AD because of its ideal location at the junction of river and road travel in Celtic Ireland. The location borders the three provinces of Connaught, Munster and Leinster. The monastery is on the east side of the River Shannon, in what was then the Kingdom of Meath, but occupying a position so central it was the burial-place of many of the kings of Connaught as well as those of Tara. We got lost pretty badly today too, ending up in County Galway for a bit. Crossed the River Shannon a few times. Ate dinner at The Loft.
11-25: Newgrange. http://www.knowth.com/newgrange.htm ... 'The Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange was built about 3200 BC. The kidney shaped mound covers an area of over one acre and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 19 metre long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. It is estimated that the construction of the Passage Tomb at Newgrange would have taken a work force of 300 at least 20 years.'
11-25: The Hill Of Tara... Source: On-site Brochure... 'Tara, seat of the High Kings of Ireland, has been a significant site since the stone age. This was the most important center of political and religious power in Pre-Christian Ireland'... We stopped at King John's Castle in Trim today too, but it was closed. Across the street from the castle we stopped at a nice Irish pub and chatted up some locals. The owner/bartender GAVE us a really nice raised-lettering Harp pint glass to take home, because he said we were the first Americans he had seen who had actually both ordered a pint instead of a half-pint. WHAT'S HAPPENED TO OUR AMERICAN REPUTATION!?! Very sad.
11-26: Monasterboice - The Monastery which was founded by Saint Buite, who died in 521 AD, contains two of the finest High Crosses in Ireland, both of these Crosses are made of sandstone and date to around the 9th century. The site also has a round tower, which is in excellent condition.
11-26: Mellifont Abbey (County Louth) - 'In the tranquil valley of the River Mattock, a subsidiary of the Boyne, lie the noble ruins of Mellifont, the first Cistercian monastery to be established in Ireland. Founded in 1142 by St. Malachy, the monastery was consecrated amidst great pomp and ceremony in 1157 at a great national synod attended by seventeen bishops and the High King. The new monastic order was successful in re-introducing discipline into what has become a very lax Irish Church. Over forty other Cistercian monasteries were opened in Ireland following the success of Mellifont. The monastery is also poignantly remembered in Irish history for a more tragic happening; it was here, following his defeat at the Battle of Kinsale, that the great Hugh O' Neil formally surrendered to Mountjoy in 1603, a surrender that marked the deathknell of the Gaelic civilisation which can be tracked back to centuries before the time of Christ.'... http://countylouth.com/Louth_Heritage___Historical.htm
11-26: Malahide Castle - 'Malahide Castle lies close to the village of Malahide nine miles north of Dublin in Ireland. The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 12th century. It was home to the Talbot family for 791 years, from 1185 until 1976 following the death of the last Lord Talbot in 1973, the only exception being the period from 1649-1660, when Oliver Cromwell granted it to Miles Corbet after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. Corbet was hung following the demise of Cromwell, and the castle was restored to the Talbots.'... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malahide_Castle... After Malahide Castle we saw some of the west coast.
11-27: This morning we caught a one hour flight from Dublin to Bristol that took five hours. One hour flight, One hour circling and diverting to a different airport, one hour wait for a bus, load bus, 45 minute trip back to Bristol (10 miles), wait for security, wait for luggage. While on the bus I came up with 'Why I love America: Drive Throughs - Parking Laws - Freeways - Street Signs - Freeway Signs - Straight Roads - Accents - Clean Streets - Wide Lanes - No 'Roundies' - Can Get A Late Dinner - Friendly Service - Trucks & Tractors -Tanktops & Shorts - Right Hand Lane - Dry Things...' Visited Glastonbury Abbey: 'now presents itself as traditionally the oldest above-ground Christian church in the world situated in the mystical land of Avalon by dating the founding of the community of monks at A.D. 63, the legendary visit of Joseph of Arimathea, who was supposed to have brought the Holy Grail and planted the Glastonbury Thorn. Even the skeptic finds much else to admire about Glastonbury's evocative ruins and its splendid documented history. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glastonbury_Abbey... We stayed in Glastonbury in an old-style building/hotel. A very charming town with nice night life.
11-28: Stonehenge 'one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world. Archaeologists think that the standing stones were erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC although the surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge
11-28: Old Sarum - The original town of Salisbury. 'Old Sarum is the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury, in England, with evidence of human habitation as early as 3000 BC. It sits on a hill about two miles (3 km) north of modern Salisbury on the west side of the road that leads to Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain. Old Sarum was initially a hill fort strategically situated on the conjunction of two trade routes and the River Avon, Hampshire. The hill fort is broadly oval in shape and measures 1300 feet (400 m) in length and 1200 feet (360 m) in width, consisting of a single circuit of bank and ditch with an entrance in the eastern end.'... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Sarum
11-28: Salisbury Cathedral - 'The cathedral boasts the tallest church spire in the UK, the largest cloister in England, and one of the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta. Building commenced when the bishopric was moved to Salisbury from Old Sarum in 1220 during the tenure of Richard Poore. Due to the high water table in the new location, the cathedral was built on only four feet of foundations, and by 1258 the nave, transepts and choir were complete. The west front was ready by 1265. The cloisters and chapter house were completed around 1280. Because the cathedral was built in only 38 years, Salisbury Cathedral has a single consistent architectural style, Early English Gothic.'... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salisbury_Cathedral
11-29 through 12-1: London - We went all over London, including some exciting times dragging all our luggage in 'the Tube' (subway) from the airport. Not my cup of tea, so to speak, but interesting. Maybe I was just tired of travelling at this point. I planned most of this trip and as you may be able to tell from the pictures that survived and the schedule, I packed in a lot of driving and a lot of old places in Ireland and elsewhere. By the time we hit London, I was ready to go home. One of the things I most rememeber about London was the Taxi rides. Insane. I'm not sure where I feel safer in a Taxi, Beijing or London. The traffic was not as bad in London though, and that's a good thing.