Wednesday Wanderings: Off to London!

Our flight from Dublin to London was delayed a couple of hours due to high winds. So we missed our arranged ride from Heathrow to our hotel. After a phone call (just what our over-worked AT&T data plan did not need), and a half hour wait, our driver arrived. He was from Moldova and spoke excellent English. He’d obviously had something heavy on garlic for dinner the night before, but after a few minutes my nose adjusted. He muscled our bags into his car and we were off. The drive into London was fascinating, although not unlike heading into the downtown area of any of our urban cities. Dave and I both commented on the large number of car dealers lining the freeway and their dizzying displays of cars. The buildings were tall, full of windows and spiral displays with gleaming cars.

After checking in, we found the nearest fish & chips place on our map and headed on foot to Hobson’s. It wasn’t a long walk and on the way we passed a phone booth, a school getting out for the day, and assorted shops.

On the way back, around the corner from our hotel, was a plaque on a building proclaiming it the site where American writer Bret Harte died.

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I had to take a picture there because I attended seventh grade at Bret Harte Junior High (now Middle) School in Hayward, California. Bret Harte wrote short stories and poetry about the American West.

My current women’s fiction series of novels take place in a small mountain community I’ve named Harts Leap. So it seemed appropriate.

 

After a short rest back at the hotel, we looked at options for the next day. We didn’t have anything booked and Dave left it up to me what to do. I booked us a walking tour with Strawberry Tours of Central London for the next morning.

Then, we decided to brave the tube and find our 2017-09-13_20-47-52_450way to the St. Martin’s Theatre where we had tickets to that night’s performance of The Mousetrap.

The Mousetrap is by Agatha Christie and has been playing for 53 years, since it opened in 1974. It’s the longest running play in history. The show was great, the theatre small and gorgeous, the seats extremely uncomfortable. But the show and the experience were worth the discomfort.

We lucked out on our tube rides and accidentally got on the right trains, both to the theatre and back to the hotel after. It wasn’t until the next day when we got on a “wrong” train, that we learned how to tell the difference. But we’re old hands now. We felt very safe and the tube was quick and efficient. The Lancaster Gate station was a short distance from the hotel and we walked it at all times of the day and night without a problem.

I’d given up on my hair in Ireland. But now that I was in calmer weather and had a blow dryer near by, I upped my hair game after this first day.

Next week, the great Strawberry Tour with the amazing guide, Will.

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Wednesday Wanderings: Double OOPS

I blinked and last week was gone! And I missed posting. Then I realized that I said the next post would be about our last full day in Ireland. But we actually had two full days left. They just seemed to be crammed into one day.

We left our niece and her family at about 11:30 on a Monday morning. We headed south. Our destination: the Cliffs of Moher. Also known as … the Cliffs … of InSANity!!!

It was about a two and a half to three hour drive from Liscarney, County Mayo, to the Cliffs. We took a few wrong turns (Google Maps isn’t always 100% reliable, but we did make it.) Although we had a couple of close calls with a curb in a village and a rock wall in the country.

We had a gas station/convenience store lunch at their little counter. Dave had two chicken legs and a snack size can of Pringles. I had a turnover kind of thing with chicken and mushrooms. And some Pringles. The inside of the turnover was like a chicken pot pie. It was quite tasty!

It was soooo windy. The pictures don’t really capture it. The wind beat us back. For every two steps forward, we took one backwards. Our eyes were weeping. We had to hang on to glasses and hats and each other.

But we made it to the upper viewing area called Hag’s Head. The views are amazing. To see those sheer and jagged sawteeth sticking out into the ocean, is to marvel at how God and nature have worked together to create something so incredibly stark yet beautiful.

When we couldn’t stand the wind any longer, we made our way into the gift shop and museum. There was a movie to see, about the birds, fish, and other wildlife that call the cliffs home.

From the Cliffs, we headed back to Dublin, but stopped for the night in a town called Nenagh (Neena) in County Tipperary. It was another hour and a half to Nenagh from the Cliffs. By the time we pulled into our Bed & Breakfast, I was exhausted. The driving caught up with me.

We had reservations in a charming B&B called the Willowbrook. Our hostess, Tricia, showed us to our room and suggested a nearby restaurant for dinner, The Thatched Cottage. We took a few moments to clean up and headed out to eat.

The restaurant was delightful. Homey and warm and welcoming. We took a table by the fire, but quickly moved away since it was putting out more heat than we needed. Dave had roast lamb, mashed potatoes and veggies. I had an open face shrimp sandwich on brown bread and chips (fries). Yummy!

We went back to our room and turned on the news. There had been a bad accident involving two American couples. They were hit by a lorry (truck). The man in one couple and the woman of the other couple were both killed. Given the two close encounters I’d had driving that day, and the stress of navigating those oh-so-narrow roads, that really upset me. I didn’t know them. Never met them. But being in Ireland on vacation ourselves, I knew the excitement and anticipation they must have felt. And to have it end so tragically … It was a hard night.

But we woke up bright and early and I was ready to head into Dublin. At breakfast, we chatted with a couple from Santa Clarita. Tricia served us a wonderful full Irish breakfast.

After loading up the car, we chatted some more with Tricia and her husband Tom. Our plan had been to drive to our hotel, then taxi or bus to the Guinness Storehouse for a tour and tasting. Then we’d return the rental car the next morning before our flight. They soon convinced us that was a very bad plan. They said driving in Dublin is hard. I was already a bit fragile after the news the night before, so we decided to drive directly to the airport and turn in the car that afternoon.

We ended up driving into Dublin, to our hotel, leaving our luggage, then to the airport, then to the gas station, then back to the airport. Turned in the rental car, then we took a MyTaxi (similar to Uber) to Guinness. I was so relieved to be done driving for a few days.

The Guinness Storehouse was a great tour, even for the non-beer drinker. There’s a ton of information and displays and graphics. Mr. Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease with the city of Dublin. That was not a typo. Nine thousand years. He started the brewery in 1759 and it’s still going strong. They say the Dublin water is what makes it special.

We had our free pint at the Gravity Bar at the top of the building. There are 360 degree views of the city. Beautiful. But we were there late in the day and it was very crowded. So we summoned another MyTaxi and headed back to our hotel and dinner.

Our driver was named Mervyn McCracken. He was a retired maths teacher who now drives for MyTaxi and writes screenplays. And directs them. When his first movie comes out, we’ll be in line for tickets. He was quite entertaining and a great driver through Dublin.

We ate dinner in the hotel. Dave had a seafood platter and I had a burger. It was more of a meatloaf concoction on a bun than a true burger. But both were good.

We woke up quite early the next morning and had our continental breakfast, supplied by the hotel at 5:30 AM. We’d chosen what we wanted the night before and they had it ready for us in the lobby. The restaurant wasn’t open yet, but the lobby staff were quite attentive, making sure we had everything we ordered. We’d both ordered just some ham and cheese. One of mentioned, “Oh, we should have gotten some toast,too,” shrugged and ate our ham and cheese. Three minutes later, toast appeared at our table.

Because we had planned to be returning the rental car, we hadn’t booked transportation to the airport with our travel agent. But MyTaxi did the job and delivered us to the airport for our flight to London.

Next week: London, the Mousetrap, and more fish and chips.