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40th Anniversary Trip


The Jester
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I really should have started this before we left, but better late than never - Greetings from IRELAND!

 

We've been traveling internationally for the last couple of weeks. First, Toronto for 5 days while Cathy attended a square dance convention and I went caching. I didn't come away with the best of feelings for local caches, as many caches seemed to have long lists of DNF's without action by CO's. It may not really be that bad, I just hit a number of them one day in High Park (8 finds, 11 DNF's). The day I walked out on the Islands went a lot better (only a couple of DNF's from about a dozen caches). Of course, the caches downtown were a mixed bag with reflective signals all over the place. Walking a couple of blocks down a street would leave a track that made loops a block and a half across at times. After the convetion, we took a day to drive down and get the oldest cache in Onterio, and step across the border to mail some dance outfits home.

 

We then flew to Iceland for 4 days (Iceland Air allows you stop for up to seven days without affecting your ticket price). We only saw a small portion of that beautiful country, but hit several highlights - geothermal area in the SW, Geysir (the original geyser), Gullfoss (waterfall), Glymur (waterfall), a little of west fjords and lots of waterfalls along the way. We didn't realize how long it took to drive around the island (a waterfall 240 miles away would take around 7 hours) so we didn't have the time to see a couple of place we thought we'd get to (Dettifoss, one the highest flow waterfalls especially). We want to come back, rent an RV and drive the rim road. We were able to book rooms each night using wifi.

 

Then it was a flight to Glasgow - which was about 5 hours late! Being that we are going to be in the UK for several weeks, we tried getting local sim cards for phone(s) and tablets. But we found that the devices are locked and would need to have another shop unlock them (but everything closes at 6pm and that's what time it is). So we spent the night in a local hotel, came back the next morning and tired a few places, but weren't able to get aything to work. So we bought a pay-as-you-go phone for some comunications, and will have to rely on hotspots for any data/booking apts. This all took longer than expected/hoped for and we got back to the car to find a parking ticket. We finally made our way out of town - driving on the 'wrong' side of the roads and using OSM maps (which are autorouteable) in the Nuvi (and the 64's) - with a few stops for caches and other interesting sights (such a Brig O'doon), we finally made it down the the ferry for Ireland. One limitation on GPSr's over here - some houses have names, not street addresses, and so aren't routeable. Which made finding the B&B we were heading too so much 'fun'. But we made it with a phone call (Thank the Lord we'd gotten one) got us there.

 

The next morning we grabbed the 7am boat to Ireland, swung into Belfast to get our first Irish cache at the slip wheere the Titanic was built. That was fun - roads don't have signs on them, they use different names than the GPS maps do, and some times the voice command was a second or two late - plus I'm having to look the wrong way to see the screen, shift with the wrong hand (the car is a manual) and try not to put Cathy's side of the car in ditch by lining up in the lane wrong. We found an Earthcache that sounded interesting and hiked up a mountain to a lake in a crater (around home we'd call it a foothill as it was only 1700 feet high). Today we planned on getting to the oldest cache in Eroupe just outside Dublin, but a cache lead us to a spot where we spent almost 5 hours on a tour of some passage tombs that are over 5000 years old (we got into one chamber that hasn't been changed since then). So we made just into Dublin tonight and will see about making a bit more distance tomorrow (Dublin is only about 1.5 hours from Belfast).

 

So there's a short summary of what we've done so far. We'll be back in Scotland in few days and are planning on having our 40th anniversary dinner in the same restaurant we had our 20th, near Edinburgh. Then down thru England to one Mega Event near London, and over to Wales for another Mega the next week.

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Today we took a tour of Dublin after finding an outdoor shop (gee, I miss REI) to replace a buckle I slammed in the door, then drove down and found the oldest cache in Ireland/Europe (both in one - bonus!). We headed west to kiss the Blarey stone, but ended up too late in the day so we just headed for the room. We'll get to the Blarney Stone tomorrow morning and then north thru Limerick towards the Cliffs of Mohar.

 

Navagating the cities is so much "fun". Roads can change names every few blocks, they don't line up or go thru, and half the time the OSM maps we're using don't have the name right (sometimes no name at all - the dreaded "turn on alley or road").

 

But the sights are amazing. We're still having trouble believing we're really here - some times it looks very much like parts of home - trees and rain. The people we've met are friendly - even when we accidentally end up in their driveway on the way to a cache.

 

Enough for now, I need to plan where we'll get to tomorrow so I can book a room.

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It sounds like you're having quite an adventure!! I'm also marveling at your bravery for getting a car with a standard transmission... we've always just bitten the bullet, paid the extra and gotten an automatic. One less thing to worry about. But oh yeah... definitely know what you mean about lining yourself up correctly in the lane. That was probably the biggest surprise the first time we hit a country with left side driving... you don't know how hardwired your brain has gotten for your position within the lane until it changes. Pretty wild!

 

Can't wait to hear more about your adventures!

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Today we took a tour of Dublin after finding an outdoor shop (gee, I miss REI) to replace a buckle I slammed in the door, then drove down and found the oldest cache in Ireland/Europe (both in one - bonus!). We headed west to kiss the Blarey stone, but ended up too late in the day so we just headed for the room. We'll get to the Blarney Stone tomorrow morning and then north thru Limerick towards the Cliffs of Mohar.

 

Navagating the cities is so much "fun". Roads can change names every few blocks, they don't line up or go thru, and half the time the OSM maps we're using don't have the name right (sometimes no name at all - the dreaded "turn on alley or road").

 

But the sights are amazing. We're still having trouble believing we're really here - some times it looks very much like parts of home - trees and rain. The people we've met are friendly - even when we accidentally end up in their driveway on the way to a cache.

 

Enough for now, I need to plan where we'll get to tomorrow so I can book a room.

 

When I was at Blarney Castle, I skipped kissing the stone and took a walk through the garden. There were some caches there, but the highlight was the lake at the end of the trail.

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We made it to the top of Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone! Quite the crowd there, so a slow craw up the stairs - remineded me of the Statue of Liberty. We wandered the grounds a bit and found the virtual. We then headed west to Killarney to find a cache by a hidden waterfall. Afterwards, NE toward Limerick and then to the Cliffs of Moher. We stayed in a B&B about an hour short of the Cliffs. In the morning we drove to the Cliffs and saw the most amazing ... bank of fog we've seen in Ireland. Nary a rock - barely the edge - we we able to spy. Leaving there was hair-raising - not only twisty, narrow roads but add thick fog! But I'm doing better at staying properly centered in the lane - it's mostly the buses that bother me now. They are as wide, or wider, than the lane. We had one slowdown where a couple of buses were trying work passed a boat trailer and then a full size RV.

 

Driving sure takes longer around here. We're fininshing dinner in Galway, which is about 26 miles from the Cliffs of Moher - but it took a couple of hours of driving (plus a 'little' more time for a couple of caches along the way). Instead of aeraging around 50 mph, we're doing more like 35 (of course, here in Ireland they are using metric - driving a metric car at home helps me convert back and forth). The stick shift isn't much of a problem - if I remember to grab in the right direction - my right hand is getting bruised hitting the window when I go for a fast shift. We'll probabe have to shorten the planned route around the northern section of Ireland if we want to stay anything close to schedule. It's nothing really hard & fast but we do have a couple time commitments - meetng friends in Scotland and a couple of Mega-Events in England.

 

Well, no B&B's close to town, so we're headed to a Travelodge in town.

 

Healthwise, we're doing pretty good. I got a light dose of poison ivy one one ankle in Toronto, but it's under control. Cathy had one stumble by one of the waterfalls in Iceland, but is getting around with the lightly bruided knee. So far we haven't had any problems with food/gut reactions - but it's very similar to home. We praise the Lord for that.

 

More later.

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The next morning brought better weather, but we didn't have the time to return to the Cliffs of Moher for the view. We didn't push very hard, we'd decided to take two days to see the northern portion. We took in some sights in Galway (I'm still getting lost in the bigger town as turns/roads are very different then back home - so some sights are completely unplanned) then wandered up along part of the coast then turned inland a ways. We found a cache at a well preserved Friary - quite interesting. We happened to see a sign for the Glencar Waterfall along the highway, so we headed out there to see it. After checking in at the B&B we went to dinner at a nice inn overlooking the water, took a short walk along the beach and had a relaxing evening (we even had time to get some laundry done).

 

The next morning we were able to find a Weight Watchers meeting right along the route. Afterwards we headed to the Giant's Causeway. This was quite interesting - the legends make the area even more fun. It was quite hot, so we only did one of the caches besides Cathy's knee was still bothering her somewhat. We wandered our way along the north coast, finding some dinner in small town, before arriving at our room just outside Belfast.

 

This morning we took the ferry back to Scotland. Drove up part of the coast we'd skipped on the way down and swung over to see Renton - a small village a little northwest of Glasgow. On the way we passed thru Linwood and tonight we're staying in (County) Fife. Tomorrow we're heading for Aberdeen - it's almost like being home - if everyone there drove on the wrong side of the road! Of course, dinner changed our minds a little, they don't serve haggis anywhere near home (that I know of).

 

This is the first time we've stayed two nights in the same place, but we're visiting the son of a good friend (who married the daughter of another good friend, but she's out of town) who is studying in St Andrews the day after tomorrow. We may be doing this more in England, we have a bit more time and can explore an area in a little more depth (6 inches instead of normal 2 inches...).

 

Time to wrap this up for the night (it strange to think you guys are just part way thru the day and it's late here).

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Boy time flies when you having fun... I didn't realize how long it's been since I updated this thread. It's been a busy time, I haven't even been keeping up with my cache finds.

 

The day trip to Aberdeen was very nice. Some great views and a nice 'tour' of the harbor. Cathy thought about trying a square dance there, but it would have run way too late with a two hour drive to the room. The next day in St. Andrews was lots of fun. We did a walking touring thru the town, our friend showed us the Uniniversity where he's studying (there's even a cache on the grounds) and we got to see the Old Course at St. Andrews - we're not golfers, but we couldn't skip seeing it at least. They really treat walkers good around here, lots of trails and back ways around town - and the countryside too.

 

On the way to Edenburgh we stopped at the Scottish Deer Park and saw a variety of deer from around the world - over here they call a moose the "Europian (sp?) Elk". We spent three nights in Edenburgh - we saw the castle (again), ate our anniversary dinner at the same restaurant we ate at for the 20th, saw a couple of movies and ordered a kilt for me (Anderson clan tartan) and a kilted skirt for Cathy (MacKay clan tartan).

 

From there we headed over to the east coast down past Holy Island to Newcastle Upon Tyne (another name from home, well almost). From there we headed west to follow Haidrian's Wall - the Roman version of the Great Wall. Built in 122 therre are still some sections standing in pretty good shape. We've seen a couple of castles, but seem to be going farther back in history for many sights (5000+ years old to merely 1800 years old). It was pretty cool to walk along part of a wall that's been there since the 2nd century. We ended the day by seeing a couple waterfalls, including the highest in England (High Force Falls).

 

Today we continued west and drove thru the Lake District - we'd have seen more if the rain hadn't settled in for the day - and are spending the night in Leeds.

 

Tomorrow, we'll hit the east coast again in the Norwich area before swinging west to hit the Mega event a bit outside London this Sunday. Then across to North Wales next week for another Mega event. Then south thru Wales and across southern England to London where we'll fly home. It such a quick trip (that sounds funny to say when talking about a several week long trip) we're just getting a taste of the UK.

 

It's been a big change in our style of vacations. Last year, with the trailer, we started braking away from the planned route and booked rooms. This trip I'm planning the where we'll go the next day in the evening and booking a B&B for the next night. We haven't had any real problems with rooms - except for the fact we need to find wifi hotspots to confirm details, but that has always worked out. Several of the host families have been a real help in finding places/things to see (such as Haidrian's Wall). Of course, the more we see, the more there is to see - we just can't see it all...

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Too bad I didn't know you were going to be in the Newcastle area. A bit south of there is the town of Durham. In that town is the only true Norman Cathedral in Europe. The old town portion of Durham looks like it did back in the day. Narrow streets and all. It is way too far north from Norwich. York was also a neat city to visit.

 

For details on the Durham Cathedral see this link.

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Ah, the weather! You can tell it's summer here in the UK because the rain has warmed. Really, so far it hasn't been too bad. Some sun (occasionally), some rain (mostly light or a drizzle), some heat, some cool - but most of the time it's been pretty much like back home. We carry the rain coats so when we need them they are handy.

 

One ironic thing, the night after I wrote last we did have a major problem with the room. We arrived in town, got to the street but didn't have a house number or name, Of course, no wifi. We tried the phone number we were given, but it went straight to voice mail. A lady up a side street gave us he house number, but no answer (aside from barking dogs). Cathy had found a square dance very nearby, so headed down there hoping for wifi - no luck. But one of the couples there lived in the same village and we followed them back after the dance. Still no answer - door or phone - so we went to their place. They had wifi so I checked and found the host had cancelled a few hours earlier due to going into the hospital! This couple put us up for the night and Airbnb transfered our payment to the next booking. Again the Lord has been gracious to a couple of fools named Brown.

 

Well, again it's late and we have a fairly early morning so I'll leave the 'action' part for later. We're coming up on the second Mega in couple of days and there's much to do.

 

Keep caching!

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So much to see, so little time to do it in. It doesn't leave much time to update this thread. We did make the coast but only had about 5 minutes to see it before we needed to head for the room. We'd run into some very heavy traffic on the M1 (their version of an interstate freeway) and used all our 'play' time for the day.

 

The Geolympic Maga Event was quite fun. It was held on a large estate that's been donated for a park. There were a number caches around within walking distance, including the oldest active Mystery cache in the UK, and the second/third oldest cache in England. A few miles away is the oldest in England (Scotland has the oldest on Great Britain, but it's an hour and a half hike) which we swung by on the way out for the day. One of the booths was by a guy that makes some wonderfully 'fun' wood caches - I'm bringing a couple back for you guys to enjoy...

 

From there we went back up/across the country to the Peaks District - across the moors which was interesting. We saw the highest waterfall in England - High Force (force comes from foss, which was used in Iceland, meaning falls). Along the way I dropped a TB off in it's goal cache - always fun when you can do that.

 

Then we headed SW to Central Wales for a night. The north thru Snowdonia to the North Wales Mega Event. They had the European Geo-Maze Exhibit. They had a large exhibition tent the housed both the Maze and the Mega - planning for the possible weather but it wasn't needed, the day was very nice. We had two days before the Mega to explore the area - with events during the day and at camp in the evening (they lasted all week, but we only came a couple of days early). One day took the steam cog train up Snowdon. Of course, the top was clouded in, so we didn't get great views, but the ride was fun and, until we hit the clouds, nice views. Our second day we headed way up north to see the Great Orme mines - dating from about 4000 years ago. They were discovered (again) in 1987 when the went to build a car park on the site. The working date from the Bronze Age, mining copper to make bronze (mix with tin). The Mega was great fun - a few local caches, a steam train nearby (we didn't get a ride, darn!) and horse drawn canal boats to watch while caching.

 

Then we worked our way south thru Wales, and east along the southern coast of England. We swung into see Stonehenge - pretty cool to be there, even if you can't walk among and touch the stones anymore.

 

We spent the last two days in the London area. Yesterday we spent in Greenwich, touring the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory. Standing on the Prime Meridian was cool. My dad built a model of the Cutty Sark back in the 60's, and fully rigged it. Three feet long and just over two hundred lines - I have it on our headboard. It was great to tour the real thing! Today we saw the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, had a real English Afternoon Tea, and made an early day of it so we can pack for the flight home tomorrow.

 

It's been an amazing celebration for our 40th anniversay, the sights have been wonderful, the caches fun, but it's time to go home where the roads are wide and we drive on the right side of the road (pun intended). See you guys soon! (After just a couple of more caches - one here by Heathrow, one in Iceland and a final near home for looong distance day of caching.)

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