Saturday, July 6, 2013

June 27, 2013 through July 2, 2013 Dublin, Ireland Apologies to our Irish Friends but Dublin Was Our Least Favorite City

June 27, 2013 through July 2, 2013 Dublin, Ireland
Apologies to our Irish Friends but Dublin Was Our Least Favorite City

We were in Dublin, Ireland, from July 27, 2013 until we flew back to the states on July 2. We were sadly disappointed in what we thought would be the fair city of Dublin.  On arrival in Edinburgh, we went wow!  We looked for the wow factor in Dublin, and it’s just another city.  We’ve took the hop-on, hop-off tour through the town; went to the Guinness experience, toured the jail, and saw Riverdance.  They were great, but Dublin overall is not on the level of other European cities.  The Temple bar area was fun, but it sure kept us up all night. We went during the day for lunch at The Temple Bar which offered 99 sandwiches and great Irish music.

Our Dublin hotel was the poorest of the 16 hotels/apartments we’ve stayed at.  The room was nice, but in order to get any ventilation, all the windows had to be opened which meant that all night long we heard sea gulls and bar noise.  Not conducive to sleeping well.  Breakfast has been the most meager of any we’ve had.  Even the one-lady owner hotel in Bruges produced more of a variety of food.  It was interesting to ask one of the ladies if she was related to another lady in the breakfast room who looked remarkably like her, and she told us that they were sisters and her Mom had had 22 children. 

We saved all our shopping for Dublin and except for great Guinness souvenirs, we didn’t find much  worth buying.  We admit to having been at the end of our stamina and ready to come home, but we were pretty tired in Edinburgh, and we still loved it.  We took a tour out to the Irish countryside – to the coast and to Powerscourt Gardens.  They were very pretty, but the coast reminded us of California and the gardens reminded us of the Mirabelle Gardens in Salzburg, so we didn’t find anything unique about either of them.  I think that if we had gone to Ireland first, we would have marveled at how wonderful everything was, but since it was our last stop, it didn’t impress us at all.  And yet we were so impressed by Edinburgh and London even though I was very sick in London. 

Two items of note that we loved:  Europe’s squares and shopping streets are full of living statues.  I have already posted a couple of them from Barcelona.  But the best one we have ever seen was one with six guys and a dog on Grafton Street in Dublin.  In addition to that, there are street musicians everywhere in Europe, but this teenage orchestra, playing traditional Irish instruments really impressed us.

Enjoying Guinness at the Gravity Bar on the top of Guinness Storehouse Experience

The Best Living Statue in All of our European Experience

Actual Statue of the Famous Molly Malone - in Dublin, one
of her nicknames is the Tart with the Cart

Powerscourt Gardens Outside of Dublin

Kilmainhaim Gaol - Executions of Rebellion Leaders
turned an unsympathetic population into supporters of the
Irish Revolution.

The Temple Bar in Temple Bar - home of 99 sandwiches

Teen Orchestra on Grafton Street in Dublin - Note
traditional Irish instruments

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4, 2013 Happy Fourth of July Everyone!

July 4, 2013  Happy Fourth of July Everyone!

No pictures this time.  We are back in the US.  We highly recommend Delta Airlines to anyone who has to take a trip, either foreign or domestic.  Although we had a screaming child the entire time and I had to turn my headphones up to block him out and Bill’s TV/Movie console didn’t work exactly right, the Delta staff and crew were wonderful both on the way to and from Europe.  I left my JEL traveling jacket on the plane in Atlanta and didn’t discover it until we were almost on the plane train to the next terminal.  A staff member went back on the plane and retrieved it for me.  The food was good and they served drinks or cold water at least four times during the course of the flight.  We took Carey Limousine to our house once we arrived in Indy – another great service – no parking bill and no inconveniencing friends or family. 

Another nice thing – on a trip to Europe, you used to have to grab your luggage upon arrival in the US and schlep it to another carousel and wait in line for customs.  They took care of all that at the Dublin Airport.  We got off the plane in Atlanta and went to our plane to Indianapolis and didn’t have to deal with our bags until we got to Indy.  We have been so lucky:  not one train, plane, or bus delay or cancellation.  Every hotel but one had our reservation when we got there and the one that didn’t upgraded our room.  A word of advice:  e-mail your hotels prior to getting there and check your planes frequently in case anything changes.  Sometimes the hotels will have great ways of getting from the airport that you haven’t discovered.  We did institute a policy of taking cabs from the airport to the hotel when we arrived in a strange city – just in order to get the lay of the land and to talk to one of Europe’s great cabbies. It’s frustrating to arrive somewhere and not know exactly where you are going.  But we usually took an alternate bus or shared ride service back to the airport when we left a place.  Since this was our last flight and it was the big one, we took a cab to the airport.  Our cabbie’s name was John and he brought us from the airport to our hotel last Thursday.  He offered to come get us and we settled on 6am, not knowing if he would remember.  He showed up at 5:30 and decreased our travel anxiety a lot. 

I have so much more to write on this blog that I will attempt to backtrack to things remembered.  I still want to get to 3000 page views.  It’s nice to be home.  Our niece Michele is here with us, and we went to our neighbors Adam and Vera McDonald's yesterday for welcome home wine and dinner out.  It was a great day!
I got through 3 months worth of mail and we got unpacked.  Lots of summer projects to get underway. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 24, 2013 through June 26, 2013 – Days 84 – 86 Homeward bound a week from yesterday! But a lovely stay in Edinburgh it has been!

June 24, 2013 through June 26, 2013 – Days 84 – 86  Homeward bound a week from yesterday! But a lovely stay in Edinburgh it has been! 

Finally, we are ready to come home, although the temperatures we’re seeing in Indiana are giving us pause.  We are pretty tired and not up to doing all the things we did at the beginning of this amazing Grand Tour!  We may do absolutely nothing for a solid week when we get home.  But first, we have loved Edinburgh, Scotland, and are looking forward to a few days in Dublin, Ireland.  This will probably be our last post until I can catch up when we get home.  I want to turn all my attention to Dublin.  I promise to finish the blog when I get home. There is still so much to say. 

On Sunday, we bought a Royal Edinburgh Tour which meant that we could hop on and hop off each of five bus lines, get on the HMS Britannia, and take a tour through the Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace for 48 hours for 40 pounds each.  With the entrance fees to the three attractions, it ended up being only around 5 pounds for the hop-on, hop-off feature, and since the HMS Brittania is 15 minutes out of town, it really has paid for itself.  We took a live guided tour around town and then headed out to the Britannia.  The most enjoyable things that we have done on this entire vacation have been the cruises – short or long – or something to do with boats. 

By the way, would you believe it if we told you the HMS Britannia was our new boat?  Didn’t think so!  Bill wanted me to say that. We got to tour the ship and then had lunch in the tea room on board.  It was an absolutely lovely lunch:  red pepper and tomato soup and roasted potatoes, a roast beef sandwich for Bill and a cheddar and chutney sandwich for me.  We had a lovely day!

On Monday, we saw Edinburgh castle – shades of Braveheart even though neither William Wallace or Robert the Bruce ever set foot inside it, they are immortalized for all time at either side of the gate. 

On Tuesday, we headed out for a bus tour of the Scottish Highlands – fabulous scenery.  The trip culminated in a trip on Loch Ness (yep – Nessie the Loch Ness Monster).  It really was an enjoyable tour.  Our driver was amazingly well-versed in Scottish history – he was the best guide we’ve had the whole trip. 

Today our plan was to see Holyrood Palace – Queen Elizabeth’s official Scottish residence, but since she is coming for a stay next week – July 2 – the day we fly home – the palace was closed. It’s amazing how Great Britain is run by the monarchy. So we walked the Royal Mile and did a little shopping.  We’ve just missed several things to do with royalty – we left Amsterdam the day before the Dutch Queen turned over the throne to her son – turning Queen’s Day into King’s Day. We’re all packed and ready for our flight to Dublin tomorrow.  See you all next week in the good ole’ USA!

With our new Brittania Runabout

Bill's new fashion statement.

Bagpiper in the Highlands

Highland Cows

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 21, 2013 – Day 80 – Transition from London to Edinburgh – only 12 days to go. Wahhhh!

Bill in front of the Apollo Theater
Peter and Bertram (or is it Bertram and Peter) in front of
their picture in the Luna Simone Breakfast Room - Great Hotel!
Motel One Edinburgh Royal - looks new doesn't it?
One of our first impressions of Edinburgh
June 21, 2013 – Day 80 – Transition from London to Edinburgh – only 12 days to go. Wahhhh!
Queen's Horse Guard in London

We are starting to get very melancholy about the end of our Grand Tour.  We must admit to being tired and not having the stamina we had when we first started out, but we are beginning to talk about all the things we will miss when we get back to the US – the squares, the cafĂ©’s, the sound of luggage being hauled over sidewalks, the beer and wine, the food, the different languages, the easy public transportation, and on and on and on. 

That having been said: we regret that in London neither of us was feeling really well.  In addition to that which we previously blogged about, we did manage to see Wicked which was really awesome.  The lights and the effects were just amazing for live theater. 

We close out London with a shot of the brothers who run the Hotel Luna Simone and a picture they have hanging in their breakfast room.  They are really funny and you all would like them. 

And now we are in Edinburgh – a place everyone we’ve met has told us is amazing.  We can see why.  I fell in love with it on the way in from the airport.  The very loquacious cabby didn’t hurt.  We saw Edinburgh through his eyes.  We are in the Motel One – Edinburgh Royal – a brand new German-run motel that has its good points and its bad points.  We are always very tired on travel days so we went to lunch where it was the waiter’s first day – he was so cute he got lots of points and a big tip for trying.  Then we took a nap.  Later we found a place for coffee and ice cream and went to bed.  Today, we have to do laundry for the last time – even that rings bitter sweet.  Rumor has it that it will rain most of the time we are here, but it’s such a beautiful city that we just might not care. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19, 2013 -Day 79 – London, England – Two weeks to go in our Grand Adventure

Changing of the Guard - Buckingham Palace


Changing of the Guard at the Tower of London
 - Complete with Beefeater
British Museum
June 19, 2013 -Day 79 – London, England – Two weeks to go in our Grand Adventure
Signs for Queen's Jubilee
Big Ben
June 19, 2013 -Day 79 – London, England – Two weeks to go in our Grand Adventure

It was inevitable that one of us would get sick on our journey.  Bill got shingles at the end of our Hawaii trip.  I’ve been fighting what I assume is bronchitis for about ten days now so I guess it was my turn.  It appears to be getting better.  Our last week in Berlin was not the best because I spent most of my time on the couch in the apartment.  But we trudged on and arrived in London, England, last Friday, June 14.  The trip went well but we had forgotten that we were leaving the major part of the EU and had to stand in line for about an hour to get our passports checked.  When we emerged from the passport line, we discovered that Bill’s suitcase was among the missing.  There was a similar suitcase going round and round on the luggage carousel, so we assume that someone picked it up by accident.  The bad part was that all Bill’s meds were in the suitcase.  We decided that we would wait to see if the suitcase turned up and then decide what to do next.  Sure enough – the suitcase arrived by early evening and all was well.  This is the third time that our luggage has been lost in our travels and each time, it turned up by the next day. 

The next day was cold and rainy in London, but we got tickets on a hop-on, hop-off bus that included a cruise on the Thames.  We discovered that London was celebrating the Queen’s birthday (actually the birthday was in April) and the Queen was in town to review the horse guard and troops.  We saw the horse guard on the street and decided to get off the bus to see if we could get close to the festivities.  We failed miserably and spent a lot of time in the rain trying to find the next stop for the hop-on bus.  So our first full day in London was not our best, but our second day was great.  We got back on the hop-on and took it to the Thames where we cruised to the Tower of London.  We were totally entertained by the Beefeaters Tour in the Tower and then got in line to see the Crown Jewels.  On the way back, we found a nice oriental restaurant that specialized in Dim Sum that was delicious, and they gave us a 10 pound certificate for Father’s Day on our next visit.  We went back the next night and had a really nice second dinner.  We went to the British Museum on Monday, but didn’t stay long because I was really not feeling up to par.  But we found a great British pub for lunch. 

Yesterday, we went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard.  Couldn’t get close enough to see very much, but the band, the horses, and guardsmen came close to us on their way out and that was enough to see.  Then we went to Westminster Abbey – what an amazing place.  Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside.  I have always been interested in British History and it was a thrill to see the tombs of Elizabeth I, Mary I, and Mary Queen of Scots, etc., etc. etc.   Today we are going to see Wicked on the London stage.  My bronchitis has been acting up, so we are staying in our hotel room until it’s time to go to dinner and the show.  It feels good to relax.  I really like London, and it’s nice to be able to watch TV in English.  Our hotel is very cool -The Luna and Simone Hotel – one of our favorites.  It’s in a great location between Pimlico and Victoria Stations with a bus right out front and lots of great restaurants.  It’s owned and managed by identical twin brothers who are very funny gentlemen.  The staff has gone out of their way to accommodate any thing we have asked for, and they give us great directions every morning when we set out. 

One of the things that we have discovered is that while seeing the sights is nice, it’s the culture, the atmosphere, the people, and the food that excite us the most about traveling.  We can always visit another museum or look at another building, but the ambience of the experience is what makes traveling worthwhile. Obviously, this blog will have to be finished when we get back to the states, but that’s o.k.  We are sadly counting down the time until we get back.  We are very glad that we did this in spite of the occasional struggles and would do it again if we had the chance. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 8, 2013 – Day 68 – Berlin Germany

Inside of the Fredrichstadt :Palast
Kathie Having a Great Time on The Spree River Cruise
June 8, 2013 – Day 68 – Berlin Germany
Bill on the Spree River Cruise - Note the Souvenir pins on his hat. 
Spargel, Scarves, Man-Bags, Schoolbuses, Show Me, Sachsenhausen, Twelve Apostles,
Cruisin’ on the River Spree, and other Stuff

Now that the rain has left the area, we have kicked into high gear.  Less than a week until we fly to Heathrow Airport and only 24 days left in our Grand Adventure - still lots to see and do in Berlin.  And lots of things to comment on:

  1. Spargel – Spargel is the German word for asparagus.  It’s thick, white asparagus, not the little green asparagus that we are used to.  Every German restaurant has a Spargelkarte (Asparagus menu) in the spring that features this vegetable.  The Spargelkarte will be around as long as the asparagus is and then will be replaced by strawberries.  Then we will know that it is truly summer.
  2. Scarves – I have never seen as many women wearing  neck scarves as I have seen in Germany.  Once the weather turned warm, I expected them to be put away, but the majority of women still seem to wear them.  We bought Denise and her Mom scarves for their birthdays.  If I could figure out how to tie them as well as German women do, I wouldn’t leave here without one. 
  3. Man-bags – very practical for men – definitely not a hit in the US.  Lots of men – especially younger men – are carrying man bags.
  4. Schoolbuses – There are no school buses in Berlin.  The children take public buses, U-Bahn,
-Bahn, etc. to school every day.  It’s free and their transportation cards can be used for other destinations than school. 
  1. Beach Clubs – There are no real beaches on the river in Berlin, but there are Beach Clubs.  Come on down, find a deck chair, get a drink, and watch the action on the river. 
  2. Being Outside - If it’s not raining, Europeans are outside at their cafes, on the riverbanks, in the parks – everywhere.  They are chatting, walking, bicycling, sunning, drinking, eating, and just hanging out.  It doesn’t matter if it’s cold out.
  3. Butter – if you get butter with a meal other than breakfast, you have probably been spotted as an American.  There will be fabulous bread – but no butter.  In some restaurants, you will be asked to pay separately for the bread. 
  4. Graffiti – graffiti is an amazing art form in Berlin.  There is obnoxious obscene graffiti like you will find anywhere, but much of the graffiti in Berlin is truly artistic. 
  5. Molecule Men (There are Three) on the River Spree.  Can you spot the third  one?
  6. Babies – babies go everywhere.  Moms and Dads take babies in their strollers on buses and trains and put them on the fronts and backs of their bicycles.  Bill helped a Mom yesterday who was trying to get down the stairs at the S-Bahn with a baby carriage and toddler in tow, carrying the toddler’s bicycle.  In our automobile driven US worlds, we would never consider such a thing. 
    Beach Club on the River Spree
Tuesday, June 4, we had a fabulous experience.  We went to the Frederichstadt Palast to see Show Me – a singing, dancing, acrobatic, aerialist, lighting, and costume extravaganza.  You didn’t need a word of German to be able to understand what was going on.  It was just delightful – we found ourselves muttering “come back, come back” at the end of each act.  There was a 40-foot waterfall, Chinese acrobats, and the German version of the Rockettes.  Prior to the show, we went wandering and had dinner on the River Spree.  One of the really cool things about the show is the intermission – when you arrive, you can order a table for the intermission and order your drinks.  You are given a table number and when you come out for intermission, your drinks are on the table.  Great customer service! 

On Wednesday  we went to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp outside of Berlin which deserves a whole blog by itself.  Then we took the train to Savigny Platz and hooked up with Denise at the Twelve Apostles Restaurant – each apostle has his own pizza and they didn’t forget Mary Magdalene or Levi, either.  On Thursday, we took a lovely four hour cruise on the River Spree.  The day was perfect – sunny and breezy (balmy as our buddy Dave Wiechec would say).  Drank some Riesling, ate some Currywurst, and in general enjoyed another perspective on this remarkable city.   I must admit to succumbing to the pollen in the air and the pressure of traveling for so long yesterday.  Didn’t feel well all day, but Bill ministered to me as he always does and I feel much better today. 

Spotted this boat while having dinner on the River Spree.
Adele was my Mom's name.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 3, 2013 Day 63 Berlin, Germany

June 3, 2013 Day 63 Berlin, Germany
I haven’t been interested in blogging lately.  It may be the weather.  It has been so cold, and rainy, and damp in Berlin that I just haven’t been into doing too much lately.  If we had gone on the Danube River Cruise this year instead of in 2010, it would have been a miserable experience I fear.  Water is high everywhere.  The roads between Munich and Salzburg are now closed so we would have had to punt if we had scheduled them for earlier in our current trip.  Prague is underwater.  So far the River Spree is ok. 

It probably sounds like we haven’t done very much in Berlin.  That is actually not the case, but we have been more into the “living in Berlin” experience than being tourists.  Bill calls it “just wandering around”. Yesterday was so cold and rainy that we did absolutely nothing, but I must admit to being really tired of CNN and BBC which is all we can get here.  I am looking forward to English television. 

Some of the things we have done while in Berlin are: a ride on Bus #100 – the poor man’s hop on/hop-off bus which shows all the major sites for the price of a bus ticket; went to the Berlin Zoo,  went on a four-hour walking tour with a guide.  Since we are seniors, they only charged us 5Euro for the walk since we had just had lunch in a restaurant that offered a 50% discount on the tour.  We spent five hours in the German History Museum.  As you know, we spent three days in Stolzenau and two days at the Kreuzberg Carneval de Kulturen.

On Saturday, we finally met our lovely friend Denise and her boyfriend Nicky at her apartment in a little town called Motzen.  Her Mom Margit and Dad Karl were able to join us for kaffee und kuche (coffee and cake).  Her Dad had triple by-passs surgery just three weeks ago so we were very pleased to see him.  We celebrated Nicky’s birthday and since we weren’t sure if we would see Denise and Margit again and they have birthdays coming up also, we celebrated their birthdays as well.  We had to bring a suitcase for all the gifts.  Nicky was kind enough to take us all the way back to our apartment since I know we would have gotten lost.  It took a bus, two trains, and a car to get to Denise’s apartment and we were bozos all the way.  We kept misinterpreting the train schedules. 

For those of you who know Denise, her apartment is just like her.  Shoes and OPI nail polish figure heavily in her decorating scheme.  Her color palette is lovely, and I completely forgot to take pictures.  Where was my head? 

I’ve found that living in Berlin is very different.  Reminders of the war and the Berlin Wall are everywhere, but there is a wonderful young vibe.  The Germans have owned their part in the past atrocities well.  All museums related to the war are free.  There is an exhibit in the Deutsches History Museum called Zerstorte Vielfalt ( Destroyed Diversity) which chronicles the years from 1933-1938 and theNazi’s determination to annihilate those who didn’t fit their idea of perfection:  Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, mentally and physically handicapped.  Forty other exhibits around Berlin also speak to this unspeakable period in history.  We think that something like this can never happen again, and yet, being forced CNN junkies, we realize that genocide and war is happening all over the world.  Has it really ever stopped?  Why can’t we just all get along?

Plaque on Bebelplatz where Nazis burned books in 1933.

Berlin Cathedral

Elephant Gate at Berlin Zoo
Only my sister Sandy will understand the significance of the  beauty of this rest room door.
RIP Marcelle Schlosser
Brandenburg Gate

Here's a shout-out to the Nold Family.  I found the factory listed below on-line in Berlin  and we go
by this sign to Nolder Platz at the S-Bahn station almost every day.
Hey Nold Family - we have our own place in Berlin.