Dublin, Ireland

We left Holyhead via the ferry and made the 2 hour trip over to Dublin. The ferry ride was fairly comfortable, but the fog was very bad.  This made for a less than ideal time to enjoy the scenery on the way over.IMG_2336

We booked it to the hotel, and then decided to drive out to a portion of the city out on the coast. The town was called Howth, and it offered some nice walks along the coast.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bring the camera for the roughly seven mile walk that we did along the sea cliffs.  It was truly one of the coolest hikes that we’ve ever done as the coast line was spectacular.

The next morning we set out to walk around the downtown area.  We parked not too far from St. Patrick’s Cathedral and began walking towards the Temple Bar area of the city.  Along the way we passed the Dublin Castle, where the English maintained their seat of power for hundreds of years.  The Temple Bar area was cool, and was adorned with wildly decorated restaurants and bars. Along the way we hit St. Stephens Park and saw Trinity College.

We ultimately made our way over to the Guinness Brewery.  Tyler and I went inside and did the self guided tour that culminated with a complimentary Guinness in the bar on top of the brewery.  The views were very nice, and Tyler & I enjoyed our beers!  (Just kidding, Tyler watched me. He said that it looked like a really fizzy Coke.)

Afterwards we walked around St. Patricks Cathedral, and then made the drive over to Limerick for the night.  Before calling it a day, we drove out to a park and went for a nice hike on some trails through a forest.

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Holyhead, Wales

We set out early from Liverpool for a drive through Wales.  From what I’d read, Wales had a reputation for exuding some of the qualities England used to have some time ago.  It seemed that it was more rural and less congested, which was certainly fine with us.  Wales is also known for having an unusually high number of castles per square mile (400 in all); you’ll see that we hit up a couple of them during our drive through.

Our first stop was to Bodelwyddan Castle, which was originally built in 1460.  There wasn’t anything particularly interesting that drew us to stop, but rather that it was along our route heading towards Holyhead. We spent time in the castle, and also walking around the grounds.  Kim found a mother sheep with a baby, and tried to get them to come closer by offering some grass. They took one look at her and ran for their lives.  This reaction would be a common one from all the sheep she tried to engage with during our trip. We also saw some small bunnies in one of the courtyards, and Kim was sure that one of them was the ACTUAL Easter Bunny (it was Easter Sunday).

Next up was Llandudno, which is a small seaside town that garners plenty of tourism.  We took the opportunity to get out and stretch our legs walking through the streets and out to the boardwalk, before stopping in restaurant to get some tea and scones.

We then stopped off at Penrhyn Castle, but only walked around the outside.

Our last stop before Holyhead was the national park called Snowdonia.  The park itself is quite large, but we only got to see a small portion at the end of the day.  We decided to take a walk up to one of the lakes, which took maybe an hour and a half round trip.  The scenery there was absolutely beautiful, and we wished we had planned for more time to explore.

We ended our day in Holyhead, and were disappointed with the hotel there.  Apart from the constant barrage of fog, we definitely enjoyed our day in Wales..

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Manchester/Liverpool, England

Because Tyler has become such a big soccer fan, we decided to see some of the places that he’s been asking about.  He’s a big Manchester United fan, and also really likes the US goalkeeper, Tim Howard, who plays soccer for the soccer club Everton. So after leaving Windsor Castle, we drove to Manchester and arrived late that evening.

That next morning we woke up and drove to Manchester United’s stadium that’s named Old Trafford. He was pretty excited to get to walk around the stadium and also visit the gift shop to buy a few things.

Before too long we were off to Liverpool.  This is where Everton plays and we were going there to watch them play South Hampton.  The game was pretty fun, and Everton came out victorious 2-1.  We also got to see Tim Howard make some pretty impressive saves.

I will mention that we did have a hard time understanding some of the folks in both Manchester & Liverpool. I know they were speaking English, but you could only pick out parts of sentences as the accents were so thick. Both cities had a very working class/industrial feel that was quite different from any of the other places we visited.

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Road Trip to the British Isles

As our last hurrah, we made our way up to the British Isles. Kim really wanted to drive through the country side, and so we decide to make a road trip out of it (and there weren’t any cruises available at the time :-> ).  We spent 12 days driving over 2500 miles on the wrong side of the road, through England, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

It was good fun and we really enjoyed ourselves being among people that spoke English.  Well, except for some of the people around the Manchester and Liverpool areas.  I am sure they were speaking English too, but it sounded like another language in some cases. What I can say is that everyone we came across was extremely friendly.  It was a welcomed change from some of the more tepid reactions you’ll get from hanging around the Hessen State of Germany.

So, let’s get started….

We spent the first day driving over to Calais, France to take the Euro Tunnel (Chunnel) over to England.  That next morning we took the trip over and it was quite a neat experience.  You drive into what is essentially a train that then takes the tunnel at approximately 90 MPH.  However, you could barely tell you were moving that fast and it only took a little over half an hour to get to the other side.

It’s a little strange at first when you drive out and begin driving on the left side of the road.  I kept repeating to myself “left side of the road, left side of the road…..”.  Luckily, we didn’t have any close calls when driving on the left.

We immediately set off to Windsor Castle. Unfortunately, it was closed for tours of the inside that day.  So, we spent some time walking around the castle walls and also going through the town.  It was very quaint, and much like we imagined a small English village to look like.

Next up we went to visit Stonehenge.  The drive didn’t take that long until we got close, where traffic really started to pick up.  It was crazy to see how small country roads could be so congested.  Kim was fairly underwhelmed when she first saw the rock formation in the distance as she thought it’d be much larger.  Once we got there, we got to walk about a mile and half to the actual site.  The weather was quite nice and it was good to get out and walk a little after the traffic.

The site itself was interesting.  It wasn’t overcrowded and was cool to see it in person.  I will say that some people were more interested in the sheep then Stonehenge itself, but I won’t name names…..

We then made our way up to Manchester and called it a night.  More on Manchester in the next post.

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Boleslawiec, Poland

Back in March we took a weekend trip over to Poland as Tyler and I had yet to make it there.  Kim had previously made a stop over with some lady friends, but wanted to go back and have a last look at some pottery.  It was a five hour drive through what turned out to be quite nice country side.

I will say that the difference between Germany and Poland were immediately obvious.  We left Germany and its meticulously kept homes/farms/roads, and noticed a very sudden change once we made our way into Poland.  It seemed that everything was quite grey and run down as we made the 30 minute trip on the Poland side of the border to Boleslawiec.

As we drove, we noticed a peculiar fact: the graveyards were the most colorful and lavishly adorned places of any that we came across.

Once in Boleslawiec, we made our way through a few of the pottery shops. It seemed we weren’t in any of them for very long before a bus or two would show up.  These buses would be full of Americans coming from Germany to get pottery for reduced prices.

I will say that the food there was absolutely delicious. Specifically, the perogies were my favorite.  Kim really enjoyed the goulash.

We didn’t take many pictures, but a few are included below.

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Vienna, Austria

Because we know that our time here in Germany is coming to an end, we’ve begun to visit some of the places that are still on our list to see before we make our way back to the States.  Oddly enough, we had yet to really spend any time in Austria.  Outside of driving through briefly on our way between parts of southern Germany, we’ve never really seen much of it.  So, we rectified that with a trip down to Vienna.

We wanted to stay in the downtown area to limit the amount of time getting to see the heart of the city, so we stayed in a hotel not too far from the city center.  The location was great, but it had a few surprises for us once we arrived.  The biggest one being that we had to share a bathroom with an adjoining room.  Not the greatest hotel that we’ve stayed in, but certainly helped us to see more of the city due to its close proximity.

Our first day we stopped by the Schonbrunn Palace, that was the imperial summer residence of the Habsburg family that ruled over Austrian empire.  The palace was enormous and was impressively appointed inside.  One of the highlights was seeing the room where Mozart played  for the royal family at the age of six.  We then walked around the gardens and found the Vienna Zoo that was located within the garden grounds.  The zoo was quite impressive and had a large list of animals, and we enjoyed seeing tigers, monkeys, rhinos, bats, elephants, penguins and many others.

Our second day we spent walking through the heart of the city and saw some of the more well-known sites such as: St. Stephens Cathedral, Hofburg Palace, the Rathaus, and the Karlskirche.  We even stopped by the Sacher Cafe to have some of the “world famous” Sachertorte cake, but were a little underwhelmed with the taste.  It’s just another example of how Europeans and Americans have different opinions on what level of sweetness preferred in desserts.  That night we went to a concert at the Wiener Muzikverein, where the orchestra was dressed in Baroque-style whigs and clothes as they played works written by Mozart.  The concert lasted about an hour and a half, and was quite nice due to the great music and impressive decorative style of the music hall itself.

For our last full day, we did a lot of walking around and saw some of the city outside the inner-most ring.  It was a very nice day to just explore without looking for anything in particular.  That evening we went and did something that we thought was quite neat: Exit the Room.  Essentially, Exit the Room is a place where they lock you in a room and you have to solve puzzles to get yourself out within one hour.  It was really fun, but we just missed the hour mark by 40 seconds.  Definitely one of the highlights of this trip.

 

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Warmunde & Rostock, Germany

We finished our trip hitting two ports in northern Germany.  Warmunde is the closest port to Berlin, and many of the passengers made the six-hour round trip train ride to get there.  Instead of doing this, we elected to spend the day walking around Warmunde.  The town was small and offered very little to see, but it was nice to simply get out and walk around.

The next day we pulled into Rostock, and then visited Schleswig-Holstein which is coined the “Switzerland of Germany”. Along the way we were also supposed to see the “City of Roses”.  However, what they don’t tell you is that all the roses die off around late July, which of course allowed us to see the “City That Used to Have Roses”.   Over the course of the day we visited various small houses and we spent some time on the Lake Schwerin.  These stops were pretty forgettable, and it was a far cry from warranting a comparison with Switzerland.

However, we were certainly anxious to get home in these finals days, so that probably played a part in our ability to enjoy these last stops.

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