Friday, July 19, 2013

Interlude Post 4 from the Ferry "Swift," in the Irish Sea

We just finished up a visit to Ireland with Kathy (mom) and Barbara, and now we're aboard our ferry for the trip back to the UK.

What a nice week - it didn't rain at all the entire visit. In fact the radio and some people we met indicated it was the best weather "in 6 years", or "since 1996", "since the 80's", "in their lifetime", etc. etc. Very lucky for us in any case.

We toured the country anti-clockwise, starting with a visit to Dublin and the city sights of Trinity College, the Guinness Factory, the Cathedral of St. Patrick.  We also saw Malahide Castle, just outside of town.

For the next few days we visited the northwest, including a stay at Ashford Castle and a chance to practice our Falconry skills with a bird-of-prey named Inca.  The castle was very scenic and it was nice to experience that side of Ireland's history, including afternoon tea.

Moving on, we headed down the coast to Killarney, and visited the great Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle peninsula, and the famed Ring-of-Kerry, all featuring amazing scenery, narrow roads, and culinary delights. One of the best was a bowl of seafood chowder in Dingle, which tasted unlike anything we could imagine, in a good way.

The Killarney area and touring was probably our favorite area, but we did have a good time as well in the southeast area of Cobh, Waterford, and Killkenny, where we stayed in a bed and breakfast on a working dairy farm - pretty neat to see the cows milked first thing in the morning and then eat cereal and toast with butter! This B&B was also in a fairly isolated town, and we visited the local pub, only to find it filled with 70+ year old locals jamming on their traditional musical instruments, including pipes, strings, squeeze boxes, and guitars, and a few a cappella ballads.  Pretty awesome sight to see.

Along the drive, we stumbled across the McCarthy Castle, which was interesting because the conversation quickly turned to inheritance rules and who would be the lucky one to get the castle passed to them. Obviously, I think it should be me.

Too quickly the visit ended, but not before we had a chance to check out Kilkenny Castle and the Rock of Cashel in central Ireland, and the Wicklow mountains and Powerscourt gardens on the northern leg.

Everyone listed their top experiences for the trip: among them were the aforementioned Chowder in Dingle, as well as the Castle experience, the mountain scenery, the Irish Stew, the individual score of 51 in the ipad game "94 seconds," the pub experience, the "trad" music, and the good company. A great way to experience Ireland.

Lest we forget the actual purpose of this blog, Navigator remains safely dry-docked in Trinidad, and we keep a close eye on the Atlantic hurricane season weather reports. But otherwise, our short term plans are to visit a bit more of Wales and England, before heading back to the mainland for the 7 day drive to Norway, which we hope to reach around the beginning of August.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Interlude Post 3 from Dublin, Ireland

After indulging in the best hot chocolate in the universe in Edinburgh, Scotland, we headed north to the highlands for a few days of hiking and sight seeing.  We quickly realized that Scotland will be a place we want to come back to - there is too much to see!

The first couple days were spent near Cairngorns National Park in northern Scotland.  The landscape reminded us of the Alaska wilds, but was subtly unique due to the people and "worn" feel that the area had from thousands of years of human habitation.  Some of the highlights included a hike into a glacial cirque, an awesome campsite on the edge of a stream in an Old Growth Caledonian Spruce tree glen, and some delicious dinners in our camps (no we did not indulge in the haggis).

Later, we moved west to Glen Affrick and Glen Coe, two additional areas of outstanding beauty.  Glen Coe had to be the highlight though, featuring a great 1500 meter climb to a saddle in between two peaks in a beautiful mountain pass, as well as another amazing campsite on the edges of a scenic loch (which reminds me that we drove past Loch Ness, but didn't see any Plesiosaurs).

After too short of a visit in Scotland, we hopped the ferry for the ride to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where we visited an old rope bridge to a fishing island, and the geologic wonder of "Giant's Causeway," a volcanic feature of perfect crystallized basalt/mud rock formed about 60 million years ago.

However, the except for any geologists reading (Kristen?), the more interesting part is the legend, which states that the Causeway was built by the Giant Fin McCool, who built the Causeway so he could enter battle with the Scottish Giant Benandonner.  The victor is unknown....

After a couple days in Northern Ireland, we drove south today and just arrived outside Dublin, where we await the arrival of our guests from Massachusetts, for a 10 day sojourn in Ireland.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Interlude Post 2 from Edinburgh, Scotland

We have been so busy, no rest for the weary!  Since Paris, we have biked amongst giant French country chateaux, toured an abbey on a rock (Mont St. Michel), visited D Day beaches and caught the 4 hour car ferry to Poole, England.

Arriving in England, we visited Bath (of Jane Austen era fame), Avebury (largest stone circle in the WORLD) and it's more famous neighbor Stonehenge, which surprisingly did live up to the hype.  The next day we headed west to Devon and Cornwall and enjoyed Cornish pasties (phylo-dough steak pies) and cream tea (thick clotted cream and jam on a scone with a cup of tea).  We visited windswept seaside cliffs and ate fish and chips in viilages that reminded us of downeast Maine.  We saw castle ruins and lots of sheep.  We hiked amongst the windy moors and alongside more sheep and cows and the occasional horse.

From the west we spent a couple of days in London, seeing the sights despite the rain and visiting Greenwich, home of longitude zero and the first clocks used to help mariners determine their position.  The history we have immersed ourselves in is staggering, it's difficult to sort out which King Henry was married to which wife and which ones lost their heads, but it's all fascinating.  From London we headed north, stopping at Leicester (the original), Cambridge (on graduation day unbeknownst to us!), Petersborough (home of a relatively unknown but amazing cathedral), hiked in Yorkshire Dales into a Limestone "Scar" or 80m deep canyon.  From there we went north to Hadrian's Wall, the northern limit of the Roman Empire in its heyday 2000 years ago, and a beautiful hilltop hike.  We managed 7 miles on a rainy day, but the trail spans 73 miles from coast to coast, most of which the thick, rock wall is still in tact.

We've been in Scotland for only 2 days and already are in love.  Its Kodiak weather (cold and mostly rainy with snippets of glorious sunshine), but it's beautiful and laid back with lots of down to earth personality.  We've visited abbeys that were put out of use in the 1600s but still stand today, shells of earlier churches of greatness, including the rescued Rosslyn chapel of Da Vinci Code fame, its intricate carvings are a marvel indeed.  Edinburgh was our destination today, the castle was crowded so we opted for enjoying the external view and walking the streets and exploring the wares and musicians and food smells of this small but vibrant city.  Tomorrow we head to the highlands to do some hiking in the wildlands, hopefully the sun makes a more consistent appearance!

We've only spent 2 nights in a hotel since our initial arrival and it's working out quite well.  The campgrounds here are very nice and everywhere.  We've slept amongst goats (no need to cut the grass with them around!), in view of castles, within walking distance of a metro station, and even in the backyard of a pub.  The facilities are top notch and well marked, so we never worry about finding a place to sleep.  We equipped well in France with a tent that literally takes 2 seconds to set up and an air mattress that rivals the boat for comfy-ness.  There are so many local treats to try that we have done surprisingly little cooking, and we want to see so much in each day that we don't spend much time in the campground other than to shower and sleep.  It is nice to have a hot shower at the end of each day, a luxury we didn't even have on the in some ways, we're moving up in the world!

As we drive from place to place, we read up on the history or any other interesting tidbits of information we can gather, and have been keeping a written log as we do on Navigator to cronicle our adventures so we can remember the details in the future.  We are taking so many pictures that we have to download and label them every couple of days before we forget where it was we took the picture!  Chris is queing up a couple of interesting video projects once we get back to the slower pace of boat living, and we're having fun collecting the footage he'll need.

Next up is Ireland and we eagerly await the arrival of Kathy and Barbara to come adventuring with us for a tour of the land of limericks and leperchauns.

Until next time, to use the vernacular, Cheers!