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Oct 31st

2015

Ireland and UK trip 2015 part 2

Wednesday started out around Buckingham Palace.  I had a ticket for a tour at 11:00 a.m. and since I arrived a little early, I made my to Wellington Arch which is a small arch that used to be the entrance to the palace but then dedicated to Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon.  After visiting the Australian War Memorial that is close by, I made my way back to the palace in time for my tour.  Every year the Queen leaves the palace during August and September and travels up to her castle in Scotland.  She decided many years ago to open up the palace to the common folk so they could see what they are paying for.  The palace is all what I imagined….full of priceless art, lots of delicate objects, and a bit stuffy for my taste.  I then stopped at a pub called The Bag o’ Nails for a little lunch and then headed to Westminster Abbey.  The church is very big and full of memorials for all sorts of people including one that impressed me the most, Sir Isaac Newton.  I wandered around the area surrounding the church looking at the Houses of Parliament, which used to be a king’s castle, the river Thames, and the London Eye.  On the north end of the parliament building is Elizabeth Tower which is where the bell, Big Ben is in.  I then wandered over to Winston Churchill’s War Rooms.  The rooms were in the basement of a government building that was fortified but probably wouldn’t have survived a direct hit if it had ever happened.  It is amazing that after the war, they just closed the doors and left everything as is for years.  I found this museum fascinating and spent a lot of time here.

Thursday morning I went to my first destination of the day, the Tower of London.   This was a fortress that was used as the royal residence for many years, a mint, a prison, an armory, and currently the home of the crown jewels. I knew that some of my ancestors spent some time here when it was a prison and that fact was confirmed by asking a beefeater.  I then hopped on a tour boat that goes up and down the Thames and made my way to Greenwich.  My first stop was the Cutty Sark. This beautiful ship sailed all over the world hauling cargo including teas from China. I next made my way to the Royal Observatory where the east and west hemispheres meet and where Greenwich Mean Time and also Prime Meridian is referring to. Found out that Edmond Halley (had the comet named after him) was the second Astronomer Royal but most of his work isn't used because he was basically a hack and his calculations were all off.  There are also three different meridians, just depended on which astronomer you believed.  Spent all the time I could before things closed down, made my way to a pub for dinner and headed to the hotel.

Friday I tried to do some culture and went to the Tate Modern Art Museum.  I went through the whole museum and only found maybe one thing that I thought was any good.  I just can’t understand how some of that stuff is considered art.  After I had enough of that, I headed over to the London Film Museum after seeing online that they had a James Bond display.  Little did I know that the whole museum was dedicated to agent 007.  It started with a few storyboards, clapboards, and a couple models.  When you get to the lower floor, you see car after car after car that were used during the filming of that great series.  They also had some of the other items used like the underwater car from The Spy Who Loved Me and the cello case used as a sled in The Living Daylights.  Last stop of the day was taking a tour inside the Houses of Parliament.  This was a very interesting tour as it shed light on the fact that there is a lot in common with our system of government compared to theirs.

Saturday I took the advice of a rally friend and found the Imperial War Museum.  I was pleasantly surprised and actually enjoyed it.  It had displays on all sorts of wars and also things like a motorcycle taken from some terrorists in Afghanistan and a piece from one of the Twin Towers in NYC.  The most moving part was the display on the Holocaust.  I finished the day by traveling around London on tour buses to see what I may have missed and then finishing up with Harrod’s Department store.  I didn’t last very long but I did buy some tea.  They had a whole department dedicated to tea which was right next to a department for chocolate.  Can’t even imagine what the rest of the store was like but I wasn’t about to find out.

Sunday was a travel day to Blackpool riding aboard a Virgin train.  I was the nicest and fastest train I rode while on my trip.  I got to my B&B and it was one of the nicest rooms I stayed in.  After unpacking, I headed to the shore which was just a block away.  I found a pub for dinner and then went back to the room to relax.  Turns out that my stomach didn’t agree with dinner and I paid for it the next day.

Monday wasn’t much because I was recovering from the bad meal.  I spent half the day in the room and then walking up and down the seashore.  I have come to the conclusion that Blackpool is on its downward slide in popularity.  I imagine it was very popular just after the war and into the 60s but since then with the ease of jumping on a plane and flying south towards warmer weather, this place just isn’t tops on most people’s list.

Tuesday I jumped back on the train and made my way to Edinburgh.  While I didn’t do much the first day I was there, the next day I visited Edinburgh castle, which filled most of my morning and mid-day.  I then hopped on a tour bus that took me out to the water where the Queen’s yacht was.  The Britannia is the royal ship that the Queen took on tours all over the world until 1997.  Interesting to see what was considered as high end and regal from over 18 years ago and compare it to today’s standard.

Thursday was bus tour day as I spent all day on a Wee Little Red Bus from the Heart of Scotland tours.  We left Edinburgh at 8:30 a.m. and went to Sterling Castle.  Sterling Castle was the gateway separating the southern part of Scotland and the north.  It was said that whomever had control of the castle had control of Scotland. This is close to the site where William Wallace fought the Battle of Sterling Bridge, which wasn’t even mentioned in the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart.  In fact the tour guide mentioned that there are a lot of falsehoods in that movie.  I guess that falls under artistic freedom.  We spent a couple hours there and then headed north into the highlands.  We stopped for lunch at a small town called Balmaha.  We had a long break scheduled and so had my lunch and then went for a walk along the beautiful lake shore. We then headed for the Glengoyne Distillery.  While this distiller is in Scotland, it isn’t making Scotch. They decided to not use peat to halt the growth of the malt, they only use heat.  This whisky was very good and I just wish that customs let you take a little bit more though before they harass you.

Friday I hopped on the tram that ran by the B&B and made my way to the airport and on to Belfast.  There I picked up a car and went to the seashore town of Larne.  I needed to burn some time before I could check in so went to this little town on the coast.  I met a couple on the beach and had a really nice conversation with them that turned into a few good laughs.  After grabbing a bite to eat, went to the hotel, walked around downtown, and called it a night.

Saturday I drove north to the shores of Northern Ireland.  I brought along my very old GPS that I loaded with maps of the area but sometimes those things take you on roads that are a bit questionable.  I was hoping to go on some wider roads but they kept getting narrower and narrower.  I finally made it to my first destination, Whitepark Bay.  I read online that this beach has so many fossils that it is pretty easy to find one.  The internet wasn’t wrong on this.  The beach was fairly deserted but it was really calming to walk along the shore listening to the waves crashing.  I then headed to my main destination, the Giant’s Causeway. It was very busy here and they were parking cars in nearby fields.  Turns out there was a potato festival going on right next to the visitor center and the park had free entry fee in celebration of the festival.  The folklore behind the causeway is that there was a giant in Ireland, Finn McCool, and one in Scotland, Benandonner.  Benandonner screamed insults to Finn and that made Finn mad.  Finn grabbed parts of the cliffs and rammed it into the ocean making a pathway to Scotland.  Once he got there, he realized how much bigger and uglier Benandonner was so he tried to sneak back to Ireland without being seen.  Trouble was, he was seen and Benandonner made his way along the path to Ireland.  Finn realized he was in trouble and his very smart wife, Oonagh, came up with a plan involving Finn pretending to be a baby.  When Oonagh introduced the baby to Benandonner, he thought that if babies were this big, the fathers must be huge.  He got scared and ran back to Scotland smashing the causeway behind him.  On my way back to the airport, my old GPS decided to give up the ghost.  I had been having trouble with it holding a charge and now it wouldn’t even stay powered even when plugged in.  I had to program my phone to lead me back to the airport but it was quickly losing its power too so it was a race to get back to the airport before the battery died.  I just made it and only had 8% battery left.

Sunday was a very long day.  I hopped in a taxi at 7:45 a.m. to get to the bus station for the trip to the Dublin airport.  My flight was at 1:00 p.m. to London and then at 5:15 p.m. for Vancouver.  My flight landed in Vancouver at 6:30 p.m. (2:30 a.m. Dublin time) and I then had to wait for my nephew to pick me up.  Guess he made a slight miscalculation in how long it would take to get to the airport and he didn’t show up until about 8:00 p.m.  Turns out that the Canadian authorities weren’t too thrilled that he wasn’t the registered owner of my car.  Good thing that I wrote out a “permission slip” saying he could use it.  We finally made it to my house at 10:30 p.m. (6:30 a.m. Dublin time). I had been up for 25 hours.  I slept for an hour before waking up again, wide eyed and ready to go.  Figured I might as well go to work.

Wednesday started out around Buckingham Palace.  I had a ticket for a tour at 11:00 a.m. and since I arrived a little early, I made my to Wellington Arch which is a small arch that used to be the entrance to the palace but then dedicated to Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon.  After visiting the Australian War Memorial that is close by, I made my way back to the palace in time for my tour.  Every year the Queen leaves the palace during August and September and travels up to her castle in Scotland.  She decided many years ago to open up the palace to the common folk so they could see what they are paying for.  The palace is all what I imagined….full of priceless art, lots of delicate objects, and a bit stuffy for my taste.  I then stopped at a pub called The Bag o’ Nails for a little lunch and then headed to Westminster Abbey.  The church is very big and full of memorials for all sorts of people including one that impressed me the most, Sir Isaac Newton.  I wandered around the area surrounding the church looking at the Houses of Parliament, which used to be a king’s castle, the river Thames, and the London Eye.  On the north end of the parliament building is Elizabeth Tower which is where the bell, Big Ben is in.  I then wandered over to Winston Churchill’s War Rooms.  The rooms were in the basement of a government building that was fortified but probably wouldn’t have survived a direct hit if it had ever happened.  It is amazing that after the war, they just closed the doors and left everything as is for years.  I found this museum fascinating and spent a lot of time here.

Thursday morning I went to my first destination of the day, the Tower of London.   This was a fortress that was used as the royal residence for many years, a mint, a prison, an armory, and currently the home of the crown jewels. I knew that some of my ancestors spent some time here when it was a prison and that fact was confirmed by asking a beefeater.  I then hopped on a tour boat that goes up and down the Thames and made my way to Greenwich.  My first stop was the Cutty Sark. This beautiful ship sailed all over the world hauling cargo including teas from China. I next made my way to the Royal Observatory where the east and west hemispheres meet and where Greenwich Mean Time and also Prime Meridian is referring to. Found out that Edmond Halley (had the comet named after him) was the second Astronomer Royal but most of his work isn't used because he was basically a hack and his calculations were all off.  There are also three different meridians, just depended on which astronomer you believed.  Spent all the time I could before things closed down, made my way to a pub for dinner and headed to the hotel.

Friday I tried to do some culture and went to the Tate Modern Art Museum.  I went through the whole museum and only found maybe one thing that I thought was any good.  I just can’t understand how some of that stuff is considered art.  After I had enough of that, I headed over to the London Film Museum after seeing online that they had a James Bond display.  Little did I know that the whole museum was dedicated to agent 007.  It started with a few storyboards, clapboards, and a couple models.  When you get to the lower floor, you see car after car after car that were used during the filming of that great series.  They also had some of the other items used like the underwater car from The Spy Who Loved Me and the cello case used as a sled in The Living Daylights.  Last stop of the day was taking a tour inside the Houses of Parliament.  This was a very interesting tour as it shed light on the fact that there is a lot in common with our system of government compared to theirs.

Saturday I took the advice of a rally friend and found the Imperial War Museum.  I was pleasantly surprised and actually enjoyed it.  It had displays on all sorts of wars and also things like a motorcycle taken from some terrorists in Afghanistan and a piece from one of the Twin Towers in NYC.  The most moving part was the display on the Holocaust.  I finished the day by traveling around London on tour buses to see what I may have missed and then finishing up with Harrod’s Department store.  I didn’t last very long but I did buy some tea.  They had a whole department dedicated to tea which was right next to a department for chocolate.  Can’t even imagine what the rest of the store was like but I wasn’t about to find out.

Sunday was a travel day to Blackpool riding aboard a Virgin train.  I was the nicest and fastest train I rode while on my trip.  I got to my B&B and it was one of the nicest rooms I stayed in.  After unpacking, I headed to the shore which was just a block away.  I found a pub for dinner and then went back to the room to relax.  Turns out that my stomach didn’t agree with dinner and I paid for it the next day.

Monday wasn’t much because I was recovering from the bad meal.  I spent half the day in the room and then walking up and down the seashore.  I have come to the conclusion that Blackpool is on its downward slide in popularity.  I imagine it was very popular just after the war and into the 60s but since then with the ease of jumping on a plane and flying south towards warmer weather, this place just isn’t tops on most people’s list.

Tuesday I jumped back on the train and made my way to Edinburgh.  While I didn’t do much the first day I was there, the next day I visited Edinburgh castle, which filled most of my morning and mid-day.  I then hopped on a tour bus that took me out to the water where the Queen’s yacht was.  The Britannia is the royal ship that the Queen took on tours all over the world until 1997.  Interesting to see what was considered as high end and regal from over 18 years ago and compare it to today’s standard.

Thursday was bus tour day as I spent all day on a Wee Little Red Bus from the Heart of Scotland tours.  We left Edinburgh at 8:30 a.m. and went to Sterling Castle.  Sterling Castle was the gateway separating the southern part of Scotland and the north.  It was said that whomever had control of the castle had control of Scotland. This is close to the site where William Wallace fought the Battle of Sterling Bridge, which wasn’t even mentioned in the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart.  In fact the tour guide mentioned that there are a lot of falsehoods in that movie.  I guess that falls under artistic freedom.  We spent a couple hours there and then headed north into the highlands.  We stopped for lunch at a small town called Balmaha.  We had a long break scheduled and so had my lunch and then went for a walk along the beautiful lake shore. We then headed for the Glengoyne Distillery.  While this distiller is in Scotland, it isn’t making Scotch. They decided to not use peat to halt the growth of the malt, they only use heat.  This whisky was very good and I just wish that customs let you take a little bit more though before they harass you.

Friday I hopped on the tram that ran by the B&B and made my way to the airport and on to Belfast.  There I picked up a car and went to the seashore town of Larne.  I needed to burn some time before I could check in so went to this little town on the coast.  I met a couple on the beach and had a really nice conversation with them that turned into a few good laughs.  After grabbing a bite to eat, went to the hotel, walked around downtown, and called it a night.

Saturday I drove north to the shores of Northern Ireland.  I brought along my very old GPS that I loaded with maps of the area but sometimes those things take you on roads that are a bit questionable.  I was hoping to go on some wider roads but they kept getting narrower and narrower.  I finally made it to my first destination, Whitepark Bay.  I read online that this beach has so many fossils that it is pretty easy to find one.  The internet wasn’t wrong on this.  The beach was fairly deserted but it was really calming to walk along the shore listening to the waves crashing.  I then headed to my main destination, the Giant’s Causeway. It was very busy here and they were parking cars in nearby fields.  Turns out there was a potato festival going on right next to the visitor center and the park had free entry fee in celebration of the festival.  The folklore behind the causeway is that there was a giant in Ireland, Finn McCool, and one in Scotland, Benandonner.  Benandonner screamed insults to Finn and that made Finn mad.  Finn grabbed parts of the cliffs and rammed it into the ocean making a pathway to Scotland.  Once he got there, he realized how much bigger and uglier Benandonner was so he tried to sneak back to Ireland without being seen.  Trouble was, he was seen and Benandonner made his way along the path to Ireland.  Finn realized he was in trouble and his very smart wife, Oonagh, came up with a plan involving Finn pretending to be a baby.  When Oonagh introduced the baby to Benandonner, he thought that if babies were this big, the fathers must be huge.  He got scared and ran back to Scotland smashing the causeway behind him.  On my way back to the airport, my old GPS decided to give up the ghost.  I had been having trouble with it holding a charge and now it wouldn’t even stay powered even when plugged in.  I had to program my phone to lead me back to the airport but it was quickly losing its power too so it was a race to get back to the airport before the battery died.  I just made it and only had 8% battery left.

Sunday was a very long day.  I hopped in a taxi at 7:45 a.m. to get to the bus station for the trip to the Dublin airport.  My flight was at 1:00 p.m. to London and then at 5:15 p.m. for Vancouver.  My flight landed in Vancouver at 6:30 p.m. (2:30 a.m. Dublin time) and I then had to wait for my nephew to pick me up.  Guess he made a slight miscalculation in how long it would take to get to the airport and he didn’t show up until about 8:00 p.m.  Turns out that the Canadian authorities weren’t too thrilled that he wasn’t the registered owner of my car.  Good thing that I wrote out a “permission slip” saying he could use it.  We finally made it to my house at 10:30 p.m. (6:30 a.m. Dublin time). I had been up for 25 hours.  I slept for an hour before waking up again, wide eyed and ready to go.  Figured I might as well go to work.

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