When my dad asks why I travel so much, I wonder. This is the man who took me on my first international trip when I was six months old. I celebrated my 12th birthday in Brasil, and by 20, I'd been to five continents and set my sights on all seven.
  • Day10

    When all is said and done

    September 11, 2022 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 75 °F

    There are great travel days, when everything goes smoothly, and then there are days like today. We were in no rush to get to the in Belfast, since we were staying so close and it is so small. I didn't pay attention, when Google calculated the directions, so we ended up going about 20 minutes out of our way. Despite the unwanted detour, we got the car returned and waited in line to check our bags. We were greeted at the airline desk, with a smile and "Where ya headed?" When we said London, we discovered that they had already closed the flight. Luckily, the very nice airline guy was able to get us checked-in and told us to run to the gate. Thank God we made it, so we could sit on the plane for 90 minutes, waiting to take off. As the time ticked away, supposedly waited for the fog to clear in London, I started getting worried that we might miss our connection.

    We landed at Heathrow at 11:13. I immediately powered up my phone and hopped on United's app. Certainly, if our flight was delayed because of weather, this flight would be delayed, right? Nope. The app indicated boarding closed at 11:10. Determined, I told Kim to run to the gate, in case the plane was delayed. We discovered that Heathrow is no DIA. Although we arrived and were departing at the same terminal, it was ridiculously big. I'm guessing we ran a half mile, dragging our bags behind us. We arrived, sweaty and panting, to find the doors shut and the plane waiting to back up. Despite being denied, the friendly skies were able to get us on the next direct flight to Denver; three hours later. We grabbed some food and took a well deserved rest at the coffee shop.

    Once we boarded, we were encouraged, when the pilot let us know that we would be landing a little early in Denver and would be taking off shortly. But we didn't. Some time passed, and the pilot announced that there was an issue they were resolving, and we'd be off soon. Next, the purser requested all passengers to verify we had a safety card and to let the flight attendants know, if we happened to have more than one. It was another 15-20 minutes, before the pilot's voice echoed through the cabin, "Folks, the FAA won't allow us fly unless all passengers have a safety card at their seat. I'm really embarrassed; we thought we resolved the issue, but the cards we found were for a different aircraft. You would think this would be an easy fix, but we just don't have copies of safety cards sitting around, so we have to have the maintenance folks come in and defer three seats, making them unusable." It seemed like that shouldn't take long, but two hours after we boarded, they finally "disabled" three seats (put signs on them with tape across the seat), and we were ready to take off. The guy next to me, originally from Kosovo but living now in London, asked me to explain the hold up. I grabbed my tri-fold safety card and said, "They don't have enough of these." He looked curiously at me and clarified, "No, why are we not leaving." I repeated myself, and we both shook our heads in utter disbelief.

    We arrived in Denver 90 minutes late, with smooth sailing through immigration and customs. When all was said and done, it was a great trip, despite the clunky ending.
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    Traveler

    Welcome home! 🙏❤️

    9/19/22Reply
     
  • Day9

    SOS

    September 10, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ 🌙 55 °F

    We thoroughly enjoyed our last day, packing in lots of walking. We left Glarryford before lunch and eventually found the walking trail that was completely mismarked on the map. We took a walk along the Maine River that flows through the wee village of Culleybacky. It has that same boggy brown color, flowing at a nice clip along gentle river banks. It sets a quiet tone for the wooded path, with an occasional babbling sound, as it meets a few rocks in its way. The air was cool, as the canopy held the sun’s warmth at bay. Every rock was enveloped in moss, and I’m sure that I didn’t have the names for all the tones of green that I saw. At the end of the path, we veered away front the river and onto the Galgrom Wood trail. We circumambulated a pond filled with ducks and coots, stopping frequently to watch them paddle across the water. The trail then ducked back into the woods, where we walked among alder, oak, and hazel trees. Eventually, the path led back to the Maine, and we returned to our car.

    We drove a short distance into Ballymena for a coffee break. The coffee shop was so busy, we got our drinks to go and walked around the town center. We were tempted to pop into Poundland, which is similar to the Dollar Store, except the exchange rate makes it a little more expensive. Deciding to pass, we strolled the main street . Like so many European cities, the downtown is a mix of old (one building was built in 1648) and new (the shopping center with food court). We cut our walk short, as we wanted to spend some time in Belfast.

    While I was researching our trip, I discovered that the Titanic was actually built in Belfast, though it departed from Southampton in England. Along the harbor sits the Titanic Quarter, an area of town filled with Titanic history. We pulled out the guidebook one last time and followed Rick Steve’s directions. We started across the Lagan Weir, a pedestrian bridge over the River Lagan that connects the Quarter with the downtown. Standing proudly up the street is the Albert Memorial Clock tower, built in the 1860’s to honor Prince Albert. Unfortunately, it was built on an old river bank and leans noticeably to the right. Hopefully it doesn’t meet the same fate as the Titanic any time soon.

    Crossing back over the river, we walked along the harbor, past the event center (where hockey is featured) to the boat dock. Several slips were filled with beautiful boats. An older wooden sailboat caught my eye. It was well-kept and I imagined the journeys it must have taken in its lifetime. I mentioned that wouldn’t mind sailing for a few months on something like that, but Kim made it clear I would be alone. My dreams were dashed, so I settled for a cup of tea instead. We ducked into a place called The Dock. It is run by church volunteers from all religions, in an effort to promote unity, and patrons pay what they like. The artwork hanging on the walls from local artists was incredible. One of the sculptures was a 15 (?) foot metal Titanic, made with scrap tools, such as pliers, hammers, and wedges. It kept drawing my eyes back to it; there was so much to see in it. Outside the coffee shop, there was another Titanic piece of art, hanging vertically in the plaza. That, too, caught my attention and required me to stop and observe.

    As we walked down the harbor, there were stops along the way commemorating the Game of Thrones. The Titanic Studios, located just off to the right, is where much of the show was filmed. It is just across the way from the Titanic Museum and the slip, where the ship was built. A large open space has short and long benches arranged in the same manner as the dots and dashes of Morse code, spelling out the final pleas for help that the radio operator dutifully tapped out on that fateful night. I don’t know Morse code, but I think it basically said “SOS.”

    We wrapped up our time in the Titanic Quarter with a quick peak at the HMS Caroline. This Royal Navy ship fought in WWI and is only one of three still floating from that era. Additionally, it is the second oldest boat in the Royal Navy, though it was decommissioned in 2011. It’s docked in the harbor and can be toured, but we decided it was time to call it a day. We maneuvered the clown car up the hill to our apartment and flipped on the TV for another dose of the BBC’s coverage of the Queen.
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  • Day8

    I wonder

    September 9, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 55 °F

    We drove up to Derry today. It was about an hour of slender roads through the green countryside. To my friend Louise, it’s just farm land but to us, it was a beautiful drive. In some areas, the trees have grown over the roads, making it feel other worldly. It felt like entering a darkened tunnel; the road held in place by the moss-covered stone walls on one side and the perfectly trimmed hedges on the other. Bridges, too narrow for more than one vehicle, begged the car to slow down and yield to oncoming travelers. Although the tiny roads stress me out, they simultaneously force me to slow down and just enjoy the moment. No rushing.

    Derry was at the center of the Troubles and is the site of Bloody Sunday. The city has a defiant feel, with IRA signs still displayed and murals commemorating the struggle tastefully painted on residential buildings. We started our day about four centuries earlier, by taking a walking tour of the old city walls. In the early 1600’s, the walls were erected, and the buildings inside today remain the only walled city still fully intact in Europe. We entered at the “Magazine Gate” in the northeast corner. From here, the wall ascends up the hill and over “Butchers Gate.” Inside the walls is a bustling town center, and it’s easy to imagine life here centuries ago. It must have felt safe with walls wider than a current Irish road. From the top of the hill, you can see the Bogside, the Catholic neighbor, where peaceful protestors were shot and killed on Bloody Sunday. Sitting prominently to the right is St Eugene’s Cathedral, which served as a landmark for everywhere we walk in the city. There is an small Anglican Church at the top, surrounded by old tombstones. Many of the sandstone monuments have eroded, hiding the names and dates of those lying below the soil. It’s not the only church in the walls, but it was the most charming to me; small, unassuming, and standing like a sentry over the dead. Trees and blooming flowers lined the walk, and the grounds felt warm and welcoming. We left the church and strolled along the other half of the wall. Along the way, there were points where the British army had set up posts to keep an eye on Bogside, having been dismantled less than 20 years ago.

    Our second self-led tour was just north and below the walls. Here, with my tour book in hand, we walked among the series of murals that were painted to memorialize the Troubles. Scattered along the walk are monuments to those who resisted the British and paid with their lives. There is a simple obelisk, displaying the names of those killed as a result of the events on Sunday, January 30, 1972. Sadly, several of the dead were teenagers. The somber, gray monument sits quietly in a residential area, where it’s hard to imagine the violence that took place in these streets that day. There is also a large, granite H, several yards away, honoring the 10 men who died, as a result of their hunger strike while jailed. Some of the murals honor these men specifically, while others are depictions of conflicts in Derry. There are murals that also emphasize the need for peace, which is still less than 25 years old. It was a bit heavy, and I wondered how different life would be here, if the Crown had not purposely planted Protestants here centuries ago.

    And speaking of the Crown, we flipped on the BBC when we got home. King Charles III was making his first appearance, speaking for about 10 minutes about the love and service of his Queen and mother, Elizabeth. It was a touching tribute, but I couldn’t stop wondering what might be ahead in the near future for Great Britain with a new Prime Minster and a new King in the mixed up, muddled up, shook up world that we’re living in today. I guess we’ll all wait and see.
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    Traveler

    This took me back to a trip with my mom and the 4 youngest siblings in 1976. We embarked on a day trip to Donegal, crossing over the border in Derry and returning later that evening. On the way back we made a wrong turn and ended up at a British checkpoint. The soldiers on duty were quite jumpy as our driver didn't shut off our lights as we approached. It was surreal to say the least; just realizing now that we were only 4 years past the events of Bloody Sunday.

    9/9/22Reply
     
  • Day7

    So Long

    September 8, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ 🌧 59 °F

    We arrived at our apartment this early evening and were greeted with the news that Queen Elizabeth II had just passed. We brought our bags in from the car and flipped on the TV to watch the endless, and quite somber, special news coverage by the BBC. As the anchor noted, it is a time of “profound change and profound sadness.” It did seem like she had always been the Queen and was immortal. A sad farewell to a queen that served so long.

    Before the historical news, we started our morning with a drive up the Coastal Causeway to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The drive on the Causeway is absolutely gorgeous. Rolling green hills and dramatic cliffs run along the ocean, which gently rolls onto the shore. Small villages dotted the coastline, as we drove northeast. The Carrick-Rede rope bridge was initially erected by fishermen to check on their salmon nets. It swings about 100 feet above the sea, spanning a chasm of about 60 feet. It connects the mainland with the island Carrick-a-Rede. The fishing activity peaked in the 1800’s, when over 100 people were employed; however, the salmon no longer swim here, and the bridge is simply a tourist activity. But it was a fun one. We walked a 1km trail to the bridge, which is accessed by a steep set of stairs, and monitored for capacity issues on both sides of the bridge. Planks of wood line the roped walkway, with two large ropes used for handrails. Kim stepped onto the bridge first, bouncing and swaying across the passage. It was a little unsettling, but the distance wasn’t too long. By the time I started to feel a bit nervous, I was on the other side. The little island, Carrick-a-Rede, was small with sheer cliffs dropping down to surprisingly clear water lapping at its shores. We walked around the island, then scampered back over the bridge and walked toward the car park.

    A short drive farther up the coast brought us to the Giant’s Causeway. As a result of volcanic activity, enormous vertical basalt columns jut out of the earth. The phenomenon is not unlike the cliffs we saw in Iceland at Reynisfjara (see previous blog “Waterfalls and Wonderment”), but it is easier to say. We walked above the shoreline first, viewing the Causeway from the cliff top above. Through a series of stairs and gavel paths, we walked toward the ocean. On the cliffs, there were groups of basalt columns, which had been revealed through millennia of erosion. Winding down to the bottom, we traipsed over the columns that had been stumped by the motion of endless waves. The black columns are five, six, seven sided and look like interlocking tiles. The tide was down, so we walked out quite a ways, and saw the head of a seal pop out of the water were the short columns dipped into the water. Apparently the columns run under the water, with the same columns projecting out of the shore on Scotland’s Giant’s Causeway.

    Serendipitously, our good friend Terry had noticed our trip on Facebook and advised us to stop by his family’s restaurant in Portstewart. We found it on the map and headed for dinner. Native Seafood and Scran is on the shore, in Portstewart, and offers fresh seafood. We ate a delicious meal and passed along Terry’s best wishes to his cousin before jumping in the car one last time for the day. We drove south to Glarryford, where we met Margaret, our landlord for the next two days. It was then that we were told the sad news of the Queen. It will be interesting to see how the loss is experienced here these last few days of our trip in her United Kingdom.
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  • Day6

    No doubt about it

    September 7, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 59 °F

    We didn’t have morning plans today, so we slept in for the first time since arriving last weekend. We decided just to enjoy our accommodations and take it easy. I found an Upton Sinclair book (The Way Out), among the other dated items on the shelf, and started reading over a hot cup of tea. It seemed like the appropriate activity when staying in a castle.

    Louise was kind enough to meet us at the Barbican. She lives about 20 minutes from here and suggested we go to Glenariff for lunch. After I opened the gate, she proceeded over our bridge and onto the castle grounds. I gave her a quick tour of the place and then we drove in a convey to Glenariff. I followed Louise, who was driving a little slower than usual. I found it much easier to concentrate on her car, rather than try to navigate the road on my own; it’s a lot to pay attention to!

    The Antrim mountains are carved by a series of glens (valleys) that run down to the sea. There are nine glens along the northern coast; we’re staying in Glenarm, and Louise was leading us to Glenariff. We turned off the Coastal Causeway and headed up toward the Glenariff Forest Park. Before entering the park, there is a restaurant along the river, where we sat by a window and caught up with Louise. Unfortunately, she had to collect her wee son after school, so our visit was only about 90 minutes. Once we shared a brownie and toffee pudding (separate deserts), we made our way outside. It had been raining on and off throughout lunch, but just at that moment, it was dry. Following hugs and pictures, Louise pointed out the preferred trail to view the waterfalls in the glen, and we started off. Within minutes, we took shelter under the heavy canopy as the rain came down hard. Small streams formed in the walking path, and we began to get wet...and wetter. Eventually, Kim noted that we couldn’t stay under one tree all afternoon, so we forged onto the open trail, where the rain almost immediately let up.

    The trail took us across one side of the valley, where we could see six to eight waterfalls dropping from the top of the opposite hill, over several shelves, down to the bottom of the glen. The benefit of the recent rain was the torrential runoff, enhancing the already beautiful falls. We came to a resting area, where we sat on the benches and listened to the crashing water of one of the falls across the valley. I couldn’t imagine how deafening that fall would be up close. Those thoughts drifted away, as we got back up and on the trail again. After momentarily wishing we had taken a picture of the trail map, our panic subsided when we figured out where we were again. We walked along a wooden path that led us to a large fall. No doubt about it, this was the most beautiful one in the Park. The top tier fell mightily into a pool, kicking up mist that filled the air. Bouncing down another level, the water crashed into the side of the mountain, stripping the moss from the rocks and rubbing smooth the river’s banks. The river, and its falls, almost looked the color of strong tea or coffee. We assumed that there was some kind of mineral running in the water, creating the dark and distinct color. The google says it is brown from running through upland bog. Ick. Despite the color, the falls and river were beautiful. It’s no wonder Glenariff glen is known as the “Queen of the Glens.” It is the largest and most spectacular of the glens running along the coast. If you ever visit, it’s just a few miles inland from the coastal village of Waterfoot.

    We followed the waterfalls with a peek at the Cushendun Caves. These sea caves have been created through the ocean’s erosion of the coastline over millions of years. They even caught the attention of the Game of Thrones, and the site was used in filming. Apparently, the show spent a great deal of time filming here, so we’ll be visiting a few other spots as well. I think I’m most looking forward to the “dark hedges” but more to come on that.

    We stopped at a local chippy on the way home and had the most enormous piece of cod ever. We ate our wrapped up fish in the car and then made our way back to the Barbican for our final night. We tapped off the evening in the sitting room, enjoying the special kind of quiet that only comes from having walls that are three feet, separating you from the outside world.
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  • Day5

    Slipping through my fingers

    September 6, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 59 °F

    We said goodbye to London this morning and flew off to Belfast. We’ll be spending the rest of our vacation in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, the start to part two of our vacation was a little bumpy. Our flight was delayed a couple hours, my bag got completely mangled, and I had difficulty connecting with the rental car agency in Belfast...until I saw their sign in the airport. The information they emailed me stated they were off-site, so I was stressed that I couldn’t connect on my phone. I was about to bust a gasket (as my mom would say), when I saw their sign, just across the arrival hall. Disgusted, more than relieved, I approached the counter and unloaded the hundred documents that they required of me. Since I was declining their insurance, in lieu of the insurance coverage with my credit card, I had to have a letter from my credit card company verifying that I did, indeed, have coverage. As I signed the paperwork, the agent was less than reassuring, “You understand that you’ll be responsible if anything happens to the car, all the way to replacing it?” Yes, I understand that, but he kept pestering me about coverage and I realized with each comment, my confidence in driving Irish roads, was slipping through my fingers. When his assault on my self-esteem was complete, the agent next to him asked if he could check something. He said, “Is your petrol marked, where you come from?” I had no idea what he meant, which must have been obvious from my facial expression. “They are green and black here. You want green.” Got it, thanks buddy. I’m sure he smirked a bit.

    We left the airport and found our tiny clown car. I tossed my broken bag in the bag but had to rearrange to fit Kim’s little suitcase in, too. It’s been a while since I’ve driven a stick shift, so I took a moment to get oriented. The agent’s voice wafted in my head, “You’ll need to push the clutch in to start it.” Right. I got it started and immediately rolled down the wrong window. Everything is oriented differently, when driving on the left. We got on the motorway and took the wrong turn in less than five minutes. After a tense, but loving, exchange, we eventually got on the correct road. Our first stop was Carrickfergus, where we popped into a little store to get change. Channeling my inner Sherri Hufford, I inquired where I might find a local lunch. The cashier told us to go next door, so we did. We both ordered the salad with chicken. The refrigerated case proudly displayed a bed of greens with a healthy scoop of egg salad on the top. I assumed that ordering a salad with chicken would mean getting the same thing, but with chicken salad on top. I knew something was amiss when she said, “Do you want (couldn’t understand), mayonnaise, or cole slaw on top?” I politely ask what my choices were again, and she politely repeated the same information. Since I could not understand all my options, I thought that Sherri would ask for a recommendation, so “What do you recommend?” And that’s how I ended up with cole slaw on top of a bed of greens, with some corn, a side of mayo (which I thought had been optional), and sliced chicken. It was odd but pretty good.

    We took a look around Carrickfergus castle, which sits right on the edge of the water. It’s a large fortress but has little in the way of surrounding grounds. Just the ocean. The wind coming off the water was a bit much, so we hustled back to the clown car and drove up to the Chaine memorial. I’m still unclear if we saw a lighthouse or just a memorial, either way it was a huge brick structure that stands at the end of a walkway right at the edge of the sea. Chaine lived in the 1500’s and served 11 years in Parliament. Through his effort, the Port of Larne was built and the town grew, so there’s a good reason to memorialize him. Fascinating fact: Chaine was buried standing up in he Larne Town Park.

    The coast of Northern Ireland is gorgeous. The weather was mild today, and the sun peaked out regularly. As we drove northeast, we detoured briefly to take a walk in Clements Woods. The heavily treed area is about 10 acres that have been put into a trust to prevent their loss from logging or other hazards that befall trees. The walk has large stands of oaks that were planted decades ago by school children in honor of the Queen Mother. When we came to the little wooden bridge, I threw down a Pooh stick challenge. Thanks to our friend Nick, in Manchester, we have found it impossible to walk over a bridge in the woods without racing sticks in the river. (For the original Pooh stick challenge, see the previous Hiking the Moors and Highlands.) Anyway, I lost the two out of three races, despite my best efforts. Our walk included heavy overgrowth that blocked the sun. With the mossy rocks, moist air, and restricted sunlight, it felt as though some mythical animal might appear at any moment. Luckily, we made it out safely and drove back to the Coastal Causeway, where we passed the madman’s window; a large rock formation that perfectly frames the sea. Local lore tells of a heartbroken an who came here every day to stare blankly at the sea, after his beloved died in the waters of Glenarm Bay. We had to do some scrambling to get up and over the hills to get to the rocks, but we flexed our agility and managed to avoid falling off the cliff. After a few quick photos, we headed to our final destination for the day; Glenarm.

    Glenarm is home to Glenarm Castle, where we were looking forward to staying in the Barbican. Whilst in Lewes, we learned that a barbican is a castle gate or guard’s tower on the outer perimeter of a castle. So, technically not a castle, but a part of the grounds. As we drove up to it, I got more excited. It’s kinda creepy, but in all the good ways. I’ve stayed in unique places before (such as the yurt in Mongolia , as seen in the previous trip Across the Steppes or the masted ship in Stockholm harbor, which does not appear in a blog, since that was 1984 and the internet wasn’t invented), but this was something. Entering the creaky door, the spiral staircase invited us up...and up, and up, and up. The first stop is the bedroom, furnished with antique bed, armoire, and chair. Circling upward, the next room is the kitchen and sitting room. All of the place has been tastefully remodeled, while still retaining is castley charm. But wait! There’s more. The staircase winds up to the roof, where another staircase leads up to the top of the tower, overlooking the whole valley below. A meandering river passes by quietly, directly below, and I notice two boys dropping their lines in, hoping to catch something.

    As we got settled, the bell rang. I was worried that Alison, the caretaker, would leave before I could get down the stairs. Almost dizzy from descending from the kitchen (third floor) as quickly as possible, I opened the door and explained, “I was in the kitchen and that’s a lot of stairs to come down just to answer the door.” She responded with “69.” OK, 69 corkscrew steps take a minute to run down. Alison was very helpful in getting me oriented with the ins and outs of castle living. Before she left, she gave me recommendations for a good chippy in the next town, as well as a nice walk nearby. “Just go around that wee corner there, and on the left is a wee gate. Go on through there and it’s a nice walk by the river, but mind the cows.”
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    Love the pics! [Debbie]

    9/6/22Reply
    Traveler

    Thank goodness for Sherri! Can’t wait to hear more. I’m so glad you are traveling again. I love reading your blog, Maybe this blog will inspire you to write a sequel to your book?

    9/6/22Reply
    Abuse your passport

    Maybe...

    9/7/22Reply
     
  • Day4

    The Way Old Friends Do

    September 5, 2022 in England ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    We hopped the train(s) down to Lewes to spend the day with Kim’s old friend, Amy. (See the previous trip “Hiking the Moors and Highlands” for more fun with Amy) Amy used to live west of the hogbacks in Loveland, before moving to Lewes. She’s been here over 10 years but living in a new place since last we visited. She built the UK’s first zero carbon bed and breakfast on the hill overlooking Lewes. Unfortunately, the effort required to run a B&B by oneself is close to Herculean, so she got out to the business, after three years of home detention. She gave us a tour of the house, with its guest quarters, and we promised to return soon for an extended stay.

    After a look around, we packed up the dogs and headed to Seaford Head Nature Reserve. From the car park, we walked over the hill to the top of the cliff, overlooking the sea. The ocean was calm and, at low tide, had receded quite a way from the stairs to the beach. Just to the east, Amy pointed out the Seven Sisters Cliffs; chalk escarpments, glowing a blazing white in the sunshine. The cliffs seem surreal in height and color, juxtaposed against the blue water below. We decided to forego the steps to the beach and walk along the cliff and down to the beach on the other side of the hill. Along the way, we feasted on wild black berries; apparently a bit of an invasive plant in this area, so there was plenty to pluck off the shrubs. From there, Kim and I walked over the rocks and pebbles to reach the ocean, which wasn’t as cold as I suspected. By no means was it warm, though. Kim rifled through the rocks, finding art in broken flint and chipped chalk. While she looked through the remains of what was once part of the cliff face, I enjoyed the view and smell of fresh salt water. Awaiting us at the end of the trail was a little coffee shop with dessert. We sipped our drinks slowly, while visitors stopped by to pet the dogs.

    Returning to Lewes, we put the puppies in the house and walked into town. Lewes is about 16K people, with its own castle, and old world charm. Never mind that they burned a bunch of Protestants in the 1500’s. High St includes the house of Thomas Paine and wee shoppes that specialize in a number of things such as picture frames. The Artwave Festival is happening now, so storekeepers exhibit local artists’ work in their shops, and you can just walk in and take a look. We enjoyed a few different places, some had paintings, and the last one had photos and pottery. We ended our walk near the train depot, where we had halloumi fries. The idea of eating fried goat cheese sounded not great, but I was assured that I would love it, which indeed I did. We shared some potato fries, as well as panisse chips, which I had no idea what they were either. In case you’re in the dark as well, they are a chickpea polenta, spiced, cut and draped in flour, then fried. They, too, were yummy. With our full bellies, we said goodbye to Amy, which seemed easier this time, knowing we’d be back soon for a longer stay.
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    Traveler

    Seven sisters pic looks amazing!

    9/6/22Reply
     
  • Day3

    Head Over Heels

    September 4, 2022 in England ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    This morning, we had breakfast and tea on the balcony. From our fifth floor apartment we can see north to the Queen’s Olympic Park. Site of the 2012 Games, the Park runs several urban blocks, north and south. Most noticeable from our vantage point was a twisting, red, metal structure. It was odd enough that it made me curious, so I did a quick google search. It turned out to be the Arcelomittal Orbit. What the heck is that, you ask? It is the world’s longest tunnel slide, conjoined with a fantastical steel structure, created specifically for the Olympic Games. Well, no challenge like that is going unanswered. I immediately purchased tickets for an afternoon ride, and we were off to the Park in minutes.

    We strolled along a series of waterways to reach the Park. Moored to the piers, several long, slender, houseboats filled the narrow rivers. The walk was quiet, despite the bustling avenues a block or two away. Entering the Park on the south side, we walked past the Arcelomittal and the hill that once hosted the medal podium. To our right was a giant, clam shaped building that houses the aquatic center. The building shimmers a blue hue and made me want to take a swim; unfortunately, we were under time constraints. We hustled to the Olympic Rings for a quick picture, before turning around to make our slide appointment. The walk back along the river included cool shade, under oak trees, with coots lazily swimming upstream.

    We arrived for our slide right on time and took the elevator to the launching deck, about 250 feet up. The views were incredible; the outfit, not so much. We had to put on a silly hat that looked like an old time football “helmet.” The old leather ones that you see in black and white photos. Not sure what the point was then or now, but we complied. Along with the head gear, elbow protection was required and made more sense to me. As we waited in line, Kim started to second guess her choice, but I reassured her. Then came the scream from the woman, who had just slipped into the tube. The young man working the entrance of the tube smiled and said, “She’s loving it!” I’m not sure that it was a scream of joy or if she waited for her friends, but it got me even more excited. Restraining myself, I let Kim go first. She nervously pushed off and it was silent, until it wasn’t. Suddenly a prolonged howl emitted from the slide, which I later confirmed was a spontaneous utterance of enjoyment. I came down next, smiling the entire way. It was 600 feet of pure fun that ended way too soon.

    We left the slide and grabbed a quick bite, simultaneously eating and walking to the ABBA arena. We stood in the short line, with lots of platform shoes, before entering the dance floor. Although we got there with ten minutes to spare, somehow we ended up on the railing of the stage, smack in the middle. What? We just got the best dance spot in the house? Uh, yup. We then met Andy, who flew from Australia for the show. As a matter of fact, he came on Friday night and loved it so much that he was back for the matinee today. Although I had worried that my expectations might be unrealistically high, Andy just put me at ease. In only moments, the show started. I can’t really explain what I saw, but it was incredible. Andy and I had waited 40 years for this, so I smacked him on the butt and danced with him to”Does Your Mother Know.” Kim and I bounced up down but when they let loose “Dancing Queen” the entire place erupted. It was bananas. I turned toward the audience, and none of the ticket holders in the seated area were in their chairs. Jumping, shaking, singing, the whole place was deafening. It was like a huge sing-along with 2,999 of your best friends and everyone knows the words. Wow! By the time we left, I was partially deaf, and we were almost back to the apartment by the time I could hear again. Before we left, I asked Andy if he preferred his seat in the back of the Arena on Friday or center stage on the dance floor today. With a huge grin, he said, “This is the best seat in the house!” Then, he paused and leaned in toward me, as though revealing a secret, “I’m supposed to go to the theatre before I leave on Friday, but I might just skip it and come back here.” It was that good. (I have to admit, I looked but couldn’t get tickets for tonight’s show-sold out).
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    I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much! Sounds like a fun day! Where’s the sweater? [Debbie]

    9/4/22Reply
    Traveler

    Awesome. So much fun!!

    9/4/22Reply

    That’s a great day! Several more to come I’m sure. [Eileen]

    9/4/22Reply
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  • Day2

    Arrival

    September 3, 2022 in England ⋅ ☁️ 68 °F

    It’s funny how the mind conveniently forgets things, when it is distracted by a major health crisis. I had been fantasizing about this trip for months and not once did I recollect the special kind of hell that is an overnight long haul flight. Almost three years since our last red eye, and I had come to believe the delusional idea that I would sleep from Denver to London. Rubbish! We left Denver at 8:20 last night and were kept awake most of the night. Just as I would find myself drifting off, we hit turbulence, of which, there was a lot. In those other moments, when my sandpapered eyeballs finally closed and sleep felt near, the flight attendants hit a high point in their conversation, raising voices to make a point. They seemed to talk incessantly for nine hours. Unfortunately, our seats were located right next to the galley, where they apparently were not short of spirited topics. Fortunately, we arrived in London just after noon, so we only needed to stay awake eight hours before catching up on the hours of lost sleep.

    After our plane touched down on time, the flight attendant announced that portions of the public transportation system were not available, due to striking workers. Of course, it was the line that we had planned to take to our Air BnB that was not running. We pivoted to the train to get us to a different underground line and made it to the apartment in a couple of hours. We stocked up on fresh food at the nearby store, grabbed some dinner, and spent the evening watching Derry Girls. We made sure the closed captions feature was turned on, so we could get in some good practice for our visit to Derry later this week.
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    Traveler

    Can’t wait to hear about the concert!

    9/4/22Reply
     
  • Day1

    Dream World

    September 2, 2022 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 72 °F

    Finally! I’ve been waiting a year for this trip. We leave tonight, on an overnight flight to London, direct from Denver. Hopefully, we’ll get some sleep tonight and after a dream-filled night, we’ll be in the UK searching for fish and chips.Read more

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