Our Scotland and Ireland Journey Begins

Day 1 and 2 – All travel, all the time.

We were up by 4am to catch a 7am Delta flight on Thursday from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to JFK, then on Aer Lingus to Dublin, Ireland.  The last leg took us on RyanAir from Dublin to Edinburgh, Scotland, landing on Friday around 4pm.  It was a long journey, but well worth it for the upcoming adventures.

Kevin’s girlfriend, Chelsea met us at the Phoenix airport.  I’m sure she was apprehensive since we hadn’t spent a lot of time together.  She and Kevin had only been dating for about a year and he was working overseas most of that time, so we only saw her a few times when Kevin was in town.  She was quite brave to commit to a 2 week vacation overseas with her boyfriend’s family with all of us staying in the same 3 room unit. [Thanks Chelsea for being willing to take the plunge.  It was wonderful to have you with us.]

Chelsea

I could go into detail about the hurdles that we encountered on our travel days, but think that would be pretty boring.  To sum up:

  • We were NOT impressed with JFK airport or their TSA agents.  It is one of the most unorganized and poorly run airports that we’ve ever been in. (Have you had the same experience there?)
  • Aer Lingus airplane seats are not as comfortable as Delta.  My legs kept falling asleep on the transatlantic flight.
  • RyanAir flights might be cheap, but their baggage restrictions are quite “restrictive” and expensive.
  • Good news – a 123 mph tail wind really helps with flight times.  We left JFK an hour late and still arrived in Dublin 45 minutes ahead of schedule.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD: If you know anything about me, you know that part of the fun of any trip is enjoying the variety of foods that you can find.  And of course, part of enjoying the meal is taking pictures of it, so you’ll learn more about the foods of these countries during our journey.
This is part of our first meal outside the US on this trip, in the Dublin airport.
Dublin Airport Food
Dublin Airport Food
  • Hunky Dorys are a brand of potato chips (although they’re called crisps in Ireland – chips are French Fries) and we read every word on the bag for a description of “Buffalo” flavor, but couldn’t find anything. The web site says it’s inspired by the herd of Buffalo based near the factory in County Meath.  I would describe it as a kind of barbecue flavor.  They were pretty good.
  • The lemon water had too much of an artificial flavor to it, but I haven’t found one that I like in the states either.   Have you?
  •  The BLT was quite tasty, but we learned very quickly that the Irish like to put mayonnaise AND butter on any kind of sandwich, if you’ll let them.
  • Often a “salad” is some version of cole slaw (with more mayonnaise) and sometimes corn is added.  By the end of the trip we were really missing our fruits and veggies.  Both countries have very carb-heavy menus.
As we go on this adventure together, I’m planning to share one or two travel tips in each post.  I’d love to get your input and travel suggestions as well.
TRAVEL TIPS TODAY:  
1. Choose your reading material carefully:  This one’s from my hubby – I’m hoping he’ll write a post about it during this series.  History comes alive when you take along reading material that focuses on your destination.  Terry always brings along a book or two about our travel locations, because its a great way to fill in the blanks and enrich your experience with the history and culture of the area you’re exploring.
Learning about Scotland on the way there

2. Or instead of reading, do some writing:  I’ve found that I’m too excited about the trip to concentrate on in-depth reading, so I use my down time writing in my journal.  I try to write every day, even if its just as simple as listing short bullet points about what we did, where we went or reminders of stories I want to expound on later.  I have learned that if we have a jam-packed vacation it’s easy to forget about some of the best little gems of the trip if I don’t write something down.  When I have the time, I fill in more details throughout the week.  This trip I kept the journal in the car so I could add notes as things came to mind.  We’ll talk more about journaling along the way.  I’d love to hear how you record your vacation memories too.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.  I promise we’ll have some great adventures!

We’re Home!

Sorry for the long delay in posting.  I had every intention to do at least a couple of posts while we were traveling in Scotland and Ireland, but either our internet access or our schedules seemed to get in the way.

The good news is that there’s lots to catch up on now!

Here’s a general list of places that we visited, so stop by again soon to get the low down on these.  Some of them were true hidden gems that we knew nothing about and just stumbled upon them.  I LOVE when that happens!

(* These were some of my favorites)

SCOTLAND:

  1. Aberfeldy
  2. Pitlochry
  3. Glencoe
  4. Oban*
  5. Stirling Castle and the adjacent Cemetery*
  6. Edinburgh Castle
  7. St. Giles Cathedral – including the Thistle Chapel*
  8. Edinburgh Fringe Festival
  9. Culloden Battlefield
  10. Loch Ness
  11. Urquhart Castle ruins*
  12. St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral
  13. West Sands Beach
  14. Anstruther

IRELAND:

  1. Adare and Adare Manor*
  2. Lough Gur
  3. Ring of Kerry
  4. Cobh*
  5. Kinsale*
  6. Cliffs of Moher
  7. Paulnabrone Dolmen
  8. The Burren
  9. Ennis
  10. Dublin
  11. Literary Pub Crawl

As you can see, we covered a lot of ground in just two short weeks.  Hope to see you back again soon as we re-live the adventure!

Have you been to any of these destinations?  If so, which were your favorites?

 

Podstrana Croatia – A Perfect Rest

So, I’m finally getting around to posting about some of the places that we visited this year.  Sorry for the delay. Sometimes I just get sidetracked with life.

Have you ever been to Podstrana, Croatia?  If not, then you’re in for a sweet treat.  Podstrana is a small town along the Dalmatian Coast, on the Adriatic Sea.  It’s directly across from Italy.  Close enough to take a ferry there.

We spent a few days there in May of this year on the front end of our trip to Bosnia.  It was intended to be a place where we could catch up from the jet-lag of our flight from Arizona and recharge before the remainder of the journey.  It turned out to be the perfect choice.  It’s located just a few miles south of the city of Split (more on Split later).

Something about this lovely hamlet reminded me of the Santa Barbara, California coast, only MUCH lower priced.   It seems as though this spot has been overlooked to some degree since the Croatian War in the mid 1990s.  It’s the kind of place that is sure to gain popularity again once people discover the beauty and reasonable prices to be found there.  If you’re looking for a quiet relaxing destination, head there now before all the crowds arrive.

We were so fortunate that the other couple that we were traveling with were quite familiar with the Dalmatian Coast and had actually stayed in Podstrana many times.  They chose Pansion Perisic for our accommodations.

Picture a bed and breakfast just steps from the shore with simple but comfortable furnishings, a friendly host and perfect weather.  To top it off, if you follow this link to their rates you’ll see that they’re less than 30 Euro per night including breakfast.  What a deal!

Soon after we arrived we were able to stroll along the beach to a wonderful restaurant, where we sat outside on the patio listening to the waves lap up on the shore.  

Below is the view of the patio and then the beach looking out from the patio.
Amigos in Podstrana Croatia

I think we all chose some sort of seafood dish.  I mean if you can practically stick your feet in the water when you’re dining out, the seafood must be fresh and delicious right?  RIGHT!  It was wonderful and served with fresh bread as well!  Here’s a picture of Terry’s dinner to prove it. (You know how I love food pictures.)  I can just taste it now.

After dinner we walked back to our rooms and enjoyed a glass of homemade wine with the innkeeper.  He was so friendly and accommodating.  Our friends have been coming here for years, so this gave them a chance to catch up on news from around the area.

Later we saw this fisherman at sunset.  Who knows, maybe he was catching the fish for our dinner the following night.  It was a perfect ending to an amazing day and only the beginning of our next big adventure.

Now if you’re thinking that there’s nothing to do but sit around, eat, drink and sleep here, (of course how can that be all bad) you’ve got it wrong.  Just a short hop up the coast is the city of Split and a short hop down the coast is Omis.  I’ll talk more about those two day trips in the near future.

Unfortunately, I’ll be off this trail for a few days while I attend BlogWorld this weekend.  I’ll still try to post, but won’t have access to my travel photos at home.  And what’s a travel post without photos?  I mean really.

Please come back to see the rest of the story.  I’ll miss you!

One of my pics will be in the AZ Republic Newspaper!

I submitted one of my photos from Bosnia for the “Your Travels” section of the Arizona Republic and it will be printed this Sunday.  It’s already up here on their website AZCentral.com.

I’m not too excited about the text.  I thought they’d edit it a bit to make it flow more smoothly.  It’s basically just the text from my answers to a couple of questions that they sent.  Oh well…kinda fun anyway.

Stari Most Bridge - Mostar, Bosnia

I’ve fallen in love – with Austria!

O.k., so maybe right now I can just call it infatuation.  But the flirtation has begun and I’m definitely interested.

I just finished watching a PBS show – Rick Steve’s Europe entitled “Austria – Salzburg and Surroundings”.

Salzburg, Austria - photo courtesy of HotelStein.at

The well-known city of Salzburg (home of Mozart) looks quite interesting, with it’s hilltop fortress and rich architecture.  I even loved the beautiful iron scrollwork crosses in their cemeteries.

But what really motivated me to add Austria to my list of future travel destinations was the images of the storybook village of Hallstatt.

To give you an idea of where Hallstatt compares to the rest of the world, it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanityThe World Heritage List (here) includes only 911 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.

I’d say being one of only 911 locations in the world gives it quite an endorsement!

Every inch that I saw of this small town (of under 1000 people) was so picturesque that I’m sure I could fill volumes with photos from there.  It’s nestled between the glassy smooth Lake Hallstatt on one side and spectacular mountains on the other.

Hallstatt, Austria - courtesy of Fotos.org

The abundant and essential salt resources that are still mined from the surrounding area have supported the livelihoods of inhabitants there for over 7000 years.  As Rick Steve’s says, “There was a Hallstatt before there was a Rome.”  Now that’s what I call historical.

I was so taken by Rick’s introduction of this lovely little town, that I had to post about it just to keep it fresh in my mind.  If you’ve visited there, I’d love to hear about it…or link me to your photos.  I love pictures!

If you haven’t visited and want to know more about this treasure, then check out Rick’s video about it.  You can buy it on his website or rent it through Netflix.  I wouldn’t be surprised if your local library might carry Rick’s videos as well.

So, I guess that’s another item to add to my Bucket List!  I can’t wait to get there.

Hallstatt, Austria

Amsterdam – Day 2 (first half)

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Here are a few pics from day 2 in Amsterdam.  It was a cloudy day, so we decided to visit several indoor venues.  We chose the Van Gogh Museum, where I couldn’t take any pictures, but we certainly admired many amazing works of art.

Super-mini car in Amsterdam

On our way to our first destination I was immediately impressed by the wonderful variety of modes of transportation that we saw throughout the city.  We saw folks of all ages, sizes and fashion statements riding bicycles.   Then we saw cars like this little red one, that could fit in the tiniest sliver of a parking spot and the 3 little boys in the attachment to their mothers bicycle in the slideshow.  What would you call that?  It’s not really a sidecar, since it’s in the front.

Mid-day we visited the Heineken Experience and toured what was once a working brewery to learn about the history of the company and the beer.  It was quite interesting.  Not being big beer drinkers and the fact that it was relatively early in the day, we weren’t able to finish all 3 of the free beers that we each could have had.  Just as well since we had a lot more ground to cover that day and we didn’t want to miss anything while being in a drunken stupor.

I amsterdam!

So, now that I’ve moved my blog to WordPress.com I need to go back and add titles and categories to all of my posts over the last 4 years.  It will take a while, but I think it’s worth it for you to have easy navigation to the various categories that I’ve set up.

I am sterdam

In diving into this task, I realized that I haven’t posted any pictures from our stopover in Amsterdam (on the way home from Croatia and Bosnia) in early June.  So we left Sarajevo on a Monday and flew a couple of hours to Amsterdam.  We had the chance to stay there until Thursday morning, so essentially had 2 full days to enjoy the city and enjoy it we did.

We didn’t rent a car because we knew from our research that it was a user friendly city.  We were able to take a train from the Schiphol airport to Central Station and our hotel was within walking distance from there.  Negotiating our two suitcases, Terry’s guitar & mandolin as well as our carry-ons was a little tricky on the train, but we managed just fine once we got everything to the hotel room.

Movenpick Hotel
View from our Hotel Room

This is a shot of our luxury hotel, the Movenpick, as well as a slice of our view from the room.  We secured a great rate through www.Priceline.com, I might add.  This is the first time I booked through Priceline because generally I’m just not comfortable with the mystery of not knowing exactly where we’re going to be booking before I plop down my cash.  I will admit that this worked out great!  The hotel was wonderful all the way around and the rate was very reasonable for 4 star accommodations.

And if you haven’t tried it before, check out BiddingForTravel.com where you can find out what recent bids have been accepted for the dates and destinations that you’re looking for.  That way you’re not over-bidding for your travel needs.

After we checked in on Monday, we had time to take a nice walk just to get the lay of the land near the hotel before the late sunset (around 1o pm).   The first sweet surprise was this precious older couple riding down the bike path.  You can’t tell from this point of view, but I would guess that these two were in their 70’s at least!  Just imagine how long they’ve been sharing these bicycle rides.  So precious!

The View from our Breakfast Table

And here’s the view from our breakfast table on Tuesday morning.  As you can see, it was right on the corner of a busy intersection.  Do you notice a trend?  There were bicycles of every size and shape with riders of every age and walk of life passing by continually.  I loved it!  The constant movement of people in such a healthy and natural way just seemed to bring so much life to the city.   I read that these bike riders can sometimes be a little crazy, but if we had stayed there a any longer I probably would have tried to talk Terry into renting a bike.  Riding in the city might be a bit daunting, but I would LOVE to take a ride out into the countryside.  Can you just imagine it?  It will definitely be on our list when we go back to Amsterdam.

As you can imagine, there’s so much more to show and tell about our short visit, but it will have to wait for another day.  So come back and see us soon!

More to come:

VanGogh Museum

Heineken Experience

Anne Frank House

Bloomenmarkt (flower market)

Canal Tour

Parks and Architecture

Food, of course!