February 17th, 2020 – Day 9: Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Kansas City, MO USA

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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On the way to Schiphol Airport from Amsterdam Centraal Station

I woke up at 4:30, an hour before our alarm was supposed to go off. I laid there in the darkness, contemplating our trip during that time; all the things we saw and did and the fun we had. We have a 9-hour flight to ATL then a couple more hours to MCI.

It was such a great trip and after getting back home I am still thinking about it all. For me returning from this trip was much different than the first time over; having been there I already had that initial excitement of being in Europe. I also knew what to expect for not just going to Europe, but parts of the trip (Köln and Amsterdam, and a little bit in Dublin). I really had no idea what to expect about being all over Ireland and that’s the part I am still having trouble processing. The people were so wonderful and friendly. Everywhere we went in Europe everyone was friendly and helpful but Ireland has the overwhelming feeling of belonging. Galway (and the areas around it) was an even more comfortable place to be…not surprisingly, a feel of home given the centuries-long family history in the area.

The adventure of travel – domestic or international, be it by foot, transit, air, sea, or land –  is so fun and amazing. It is also what you make of it and to be self-reliant in a country where you are a visitor/outsider gives one pause to think about that a little deeper (at least it should) when they return home.

You must get out of your comfort zone to actually learn things and have great experiences when and where you travel; it’s not just about taking pictures of the same famous things like everyone else has posted online. Get in the alleys, go in a coffeeshop or a smart shop, do something you wouldn’t normally do, go someplace where your language is not spoken primarily, eat foods you cannot pronounce, try to have conversations with a local. I guarantee you will have some amazing life-changing experiences and countless stories and memories that last a lifetime.

This trip also included my first stay in an Airbnb property (Landsmeer) and I think that its a great way to travel now that I have done it. I will be looking into doing that more on my own – it’s a great way to get the local flavor of where you are and a great alternative to the same old boring chain hotels here in the States. Being retired, most of my travel will probably be with the trailer but there will one times I need to fly someplace and need a place to stay.

A few thoughts about Amsterdam – it’s a fun, easy city to be in but it is so overrun with cannabis tourists and all of the businesses play it up pretty well – to me it is really overblown and gaudy. I can stay home for that without the commerciality but Washington is overrun with people as well, especially the Seattle area.

I do feel really bad for the residents of Amsterdam; it is tough enough just living in a tourist area but what they deal with is pretty bad. Many tourists don’t care about or respect the locals and that is bad – trust me I know firsthand, having lived in touristy areas since 1996. We avoided being in the city on Friday and Saturday night and waited until Sunday to walk around at night.

I will probably be back, but will stay in the outskirts since I not only want to minimize my impact on the city but I also have other places I want to see in The Netherlands. I really do like Amsterdam’s progressiveness (which some call “freedom”…but only if it fits into their own morals). If you have a closed mind Amsterdam is just not for you.

…and some more thoughts about Ireland – I will definitely be going back to visit this beautiful place, full of some of the friendliest people I have ever met in my life. Dublin is fun and there’s a lot of history there that I still want to explore. There is so much more of the island I want to see. I had a lot of fun driving the car and really enjoyed the challenges and the differences (but not the Dublin traffic madness) and I will definitely get a car every time I go there. There is so much more to see and do in Ireland and I have to see and do it. For me, Galway has that indescribable special magic I feel when I am in the mountains.

In all we walked a total of about 58 miles in 8 days; not counting the day we left that’s an average of 7.25 miles a day. Some days were more – I know one or two were 10 miles a day! Pretty good amount of exercise! The girls did great figuring out the public transit and they fit right in. The only issues we had were the mapping apps not updating like they should (slow data speeds on our free international plans) and sending us in the wrong direction for a bit almost every time we wanted directions.

It was their first trip abroad and their first trip carrying everything around on their backs in a backpack and they did fantastic. They really adapted to this new style of travel really quick and they looked like experienced travel pros from the moment we left. To share travel with someone else makes it even better. When it is with someone you care about it is even better yet. I am so glad we got to go.

Thanks for a great trip, girls. I am looking forward to our next adventure!

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The End!!

February 11th, 2020 – Day 3: Athlone, Ireland to Dublin, Ireland

Adventure, food, Just things, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Yes…it means exactly what you think it means

We got up and got packed then went for breakfast across the street at Bastion Kitchen. I had the bap (a sausage sandwich) with coffee and it was so delicious. They topped it with some greens and something I had never had before – a tomato/onion jam that took that sandwich to a whole new level.

After breakfast we went back up to get our bags and we took off again, this time back west to see the Cliffs of Moher. We ran out of time yesterday and we all wanted to see them so off we went!

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Driving near ‎⁨Tubber⁩, ⁨Co. Clare⁩, ⁨Ireland⁩

The drive was really interesting and beautiful. Cliot, the name given to our Renault Clio by Chelsea and Angie, barely fit in one lane of the road almost all the way there, and the rest were single lane roads. This car is small and still had to squeeze by more than once.

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Roads are not very wide! Notice the sticker on the car dashboard to remind you to drive on the left.

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Roads are not very wide!

Driving around Ireland you will see castles literally everywhere.

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Castle near ‎⁨Kilfenora⁩, ⁨Co. Clare⁩, ⁨Ireland⁩

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‎⁨Castle near Gort⁩, ⁨Co. Galway⁩, ⁨Ireland⁩

Again, the weather has been absolutely horrible and, incredibly, it was even worse at the cliffs in the form of spray and 60 mph winds that almost knocked us over more than once. We were glad we made the drive, though, and walked through the fury. It was a spectacular view and I wish we could’ve hiked up to the highest point but the winds are known to blow people over the edge. Not interested in that.

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Chelsea and Angie checking out the view at the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

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The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland

We left and went back eastbound to Dublin. On the way we stopped for a break at the Barack Obama Plaza rest stop to stretch and get a few snacks. That was rather interesting to see in the middle of Ireland.

We decided to get a hotel in Temple Bar area for a few nights. Doing this we could do laundry in our rental place and be able to stay put a few nights and get to see everything we want to see.

The other part of the plan was to get rid of Cliot since it had to be returned first thing in the morning anyway. This meant getting it back to the airport, and that meant I had to drive a manual shift, right-hand drive car in the middle of Dublin center city. I dropped the girls off to take stuff up to our room since there was no place to park Cliot. I took off and navigated Dublin traffic solo, wondering how that was a good idea.  Not sure what I was thinking but I found my way back to the hotel and we got to the airport eventually.

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Dublin traffic. OMG. It is absolute insanity to drive in and I bet it is about the same even if you know the place and traffic flows and vehicles. I thought Seattle traffic sucked to drive in. I just looked up the population numbers and Dublin has 76% more people by a count done in 2011. I think we saw them all as we drove in the city that night.

Anyhoo, we got a bus back from the airport and went for dinner at The Shack in Temple Bar near our room. I had the Cottage Pie and it was so filling I brought home leftovers. I had more of that delicious black bread with mine and it was the perfect pairing.

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The Shack’s Cottage Pie with sourdough – Temple Bar area, Dublin, Ireland

Our rental has a kitchen as well as a washer/dryer combo machine (yes, it does both!). We can heat our leftovers and we went to the store for a few things to eat in and save a few €.

We discovered the laundry machine was really not good – to get things dry it heats up to the temperature of the sun and then runs for 4 hours. I had to just turn it off to stop it – we could not figure out any other way on the controls.

It was a neat place though. The view from the balconies was pretty good.

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View of Christchurch from our rental apartment in Temple Bar area – Dublin, Ireland

There was a courtyard with some interesting history down below our balconies. There is a statue standing on top of pipes from a pipe organ coming up out of the ground. The statue has his arms raised with a conductor’s baton. It was to commemorate the place Handel performed his classic “Messiah” in public for the first time.

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Courtyard commemorating Handel’s first public performance of “Messiah” – Dublin, Ireland

I found something rather odd in our apartment.

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The bathroom fan is on the left. The switch is on the right.

Looks normal, you say? Think again. To turn on the switch you have to stand IN the bathtub! Yes…IN THE BATHTUB! I am pretty certain that doesn’t meet code where I live.

Time for sleep. See you tomorrow!

February 10th, 2020 – Day 2: Galway, Ireland to Athlone, Ireland

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

Wow. What a day.

We got up and around at a leisurely pace this morning after a much-needed night’s sleep. I think we slept about 10-11 hours.

We have encountered some fierce winds, sleet, rain, snow…and no damn sun so far. Not what I need to get over my S. A. D. but if it is gonna be gray and rainy it might as well be REALLY shitty outside.

We dropped off our laundry at the laundrette and then went into downtown Galway to find breakfast. We went to a place called The Caprice Cafe. We all got coffee, local eggs scrambled with some amazing bacon and toast.

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Look at that bacon! Breakfast at The Caprice Cafe – Dublin, Ireland

I ended up getting black pudding (blood sausage) so we could try it. We all tried it and the consensus was that it was okay but wouldn’t order it again. Everything else was delicious. The eggs were local organic eggs and they were the best eggs I have ever eaten. I don’t know what they feed the chickens there but the eggs were amazing. The toast I had was made from black bread – a dense, filling delicious bread thick-sliced with Irish butter.

We went walking around to see the city and do a little shopping.

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Galway, Ireland

What a fun city to hang out in. We went to see the Galway Cathedral.

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Swan on the River Corrib in Galway, Ireland

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Galway Cathedral – Galway, Ireland

Then we got back in the car for a drive into the country.

We were off to see the castle where my family originated. I have to admit I got a bit choked up seeing the castle as we drove up, and a little bit more as I walked up to the front gate. It’s where our Irish family heritage began and that is a pretty powerful and emotional thing to think about. We couldn’t go inside since it was closed for the season but we got to get fairly close – up to the front door. It’s a pretty moving experience to visit a place like that and one that everyone should be so lucky to have in their lifetime. I am now that lucky.

It’s also a place where my parents visited many years ago, and the last text I got from my good friend Paul before he died unexpectedly was a picture of this castle telling me all about it. This place really has a lot of meaning to me.

Aughnanure Castle – Oughterard, Ireland

We left there and headed east for our next night’s stay at The Bastion B&B in a town called Athlone.

One reason for going to Athlone was to visit the oldest bar in Ireland – Sean’s Bar. It was so much fun. We stopped by to see it and decided to go find food before the pints started tipping.

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Athlone, Ireland

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Sean’s Bar – Athlone, Ireland

We ended up at The Snug for a starter pint and some pizzas from Pavarotti’s Pizza next door. We had seats by a peat fireplace and it was a very cozy place. They had something I had heard of previously and wanted to try called poitín – Irish moonshine (pronounced “po-tcheen”). Our publican there, Pat, gave me a small taste after warning me.

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Inside The Snug – Athlone, Ireland

I now know what they have done with leftover napalm. That poitín was the harshest thing I have ever drank and burned oh-so badly. I tried to wash it down with a Guinness but it did little to put out the fire in my throat and stomach. Luckily the pizzas showed up to help but the moonshine had cauterized my tastebuds. What I could taste was delicious though!

We left and went back to Sean’s and kicked the evening into overdrive. Several pints later two musicians named Jim and Mick rolled in and the night got even better. We were sitting right next to them and we all had a great time.

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Jim and Mick at Sean’s Bar – Athlone, Ireland

Another thing we did there at Sean’s was to add an old Kansas license plate to the collection on their wall with all of our names on it. This was to honor my dad and his love of Ireland.

We eventually managed to get back to our BnB and went to sleep.

It was a great day.

February 8th/9th, 2020 – Day 1: Flights Over and Arrival!

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Yeah there is!!!

After a very sleepless night (go figure!) we left KC early this morning and flew to Atlanta. Atlanta is a five hour layover so we will need to find something to occupy that time. First Class, a couple of cocktails, and we are on our way in grand fashion!

I finally decided to just stay up all night. I am trying to adjust my schedule to get in sync with where we will end up. I fell asleep for about 20 minutes and figured it was breakfast again when I woke up.

The guy sitting next to me showed up fairly late and we chatted a few minutes about destinations. He was a really nice guy and asked where we’re headed so I told him our plans. He said it sounded like a great trip. We then put on our headphones and watched some TV. It was a fairly short flight so I got about a 20-minute nap.

I got coherent again after my nap and ordered another drink. I looked over and noticed a big ring on the finger of my seatmate. It sure looked like a Super Bowl ring but my eyes were so tired I couldn’t focus on it completely.

We were preparing to land and he asked me “You watch much football?”. I said “a little” and he then proceeded to introduce himself as we shook hands. “My name is Willie Lanier and I was on the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Team.”. My jaw hit the floor and I looked at Chelsea and Angie and mouthed the words “Holy shit!”. It really WAS a Super Bowl ring! He had been in KC for the parade. We talked until we deplaned. He was an incredibly nice man. He told us to enjoy and have fun on our trip. We shook hands again as we got up to leave.

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That’s Willie Lanier by the window!

I seem to have this uncanny knack of running into people I may know personally or a few celebrities in the most unusual places. For instance, I once ran into long-time family friends from Kansas at Little Big Horn of all places.

We got on the train in ATL to go find food. We found a place that had delicious wraps and sat and watched planes while eating. We got back on the train to get to our gate. Lo and behold…ANOTHER celebrity looked to be standing right behind Angie. I believe it was Oliver North.

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Oliver North on the airport train in Atlanta airport; he’s in the blue suit partially covered and not the one in red pants

The next leg of our journey takes us from Atlanta to NYC and from First Class back to Coach. This is a shorter layover (thankfully).

Then there was a problem. The last of the flights over had a few issues. I had received an email from Delta just as we got on the plane out of ATL saying our last flight over was delayed three hours. This means getting to our first destination close to noon. It also meant having to change plans and miss out on seeing stuff the first half of our first day. And the other flights they offered were ON SUNDAY!

Well that was absolutely unacceptable. We have used a day for all of the travel and an overnight flight across (hence the dates in the title of this post). We are NOT going to lose an other day or even a few hours.

To make a long story short, I raised absolute hell with Delta and got us on another flight with Aer Lingus. Our original flight had issues due to the weather and it caused many people to reroute. This meant we each had a row to ourselves on the flight over! We actually got in over an hour before our original flight so we hit the ground running…in Dublin, Ireland!

The first order of business after landing and going through Customs is finding our rental car place. Yes, we are renting a car and none of us have driven in Europe. That means that none of us have driven on the opposite side of the road intentionally.

From the pictures of our car it looked to be about the size of a shoe. Turns out it was a little bigger – more like a boot. Good thing we are traveling light!

At the car rental booth we were told the weather was really bad and to be careful. Major storms were going through and it was not looking good. So much for an escape to better weather. We arrived in Dublin and the weather was horrendous so we figured we knew what to expect. The winds were ferocious when landing and it was raining torrentially hard.

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Our transportation – the Clio

We got in the car, a Peugeot Clio with a manual transmission, and took off into Dublin airport traffic. I was chosen to drive first by a majority vote. It’s really not difficult driving a right-hand drive car. The difficulty comes in driving on the other side of the road and your reflexes in an emergency.

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It’s green, all right! Along the M7 on our way to Galway, Ireland via Limerick

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It’s green, all right! Along the M7 on our way to Galway, Ireland via Limerick

We drove southwest toward Limerick then northwest through Shannon. Along the way we saw a castle on the side of the road so we stopped for a look.

It was the Bunratty Castle. We did not go in since were were trying to get to our destination, but we stopped for a look.

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Thatched roof cottages on the grounds of the Bunratty Castle near Shannon, Ireland

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Bunratty Castle near Shannon, Ireland

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Bunratty Castle near Shannon, Ireland

We then took off to Galway where we stayed at The Western. We got cleaned up and relaxed a few then went to find good. Just down the street was a pub we went to called McGettigan’s and had dinner, where we tried fries that had been cooked in duck fat. Oh man. It went great with the obligatory pint. Then we went for a short walk. We were not only beyond exhausted but the weather was, as they say in Ireland, shite.

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The Western Hotel in Galway, Ireland

Yeah, I was wanting better weather but it is far from that. We are well-prepared for the conditions and are staying warm and dry. Then again, we are on vacation…IN IRELAND! Small price to pay!

We were jet-lagged badly and fell asleep about 8:30. Sleep was going to be good.

Until tomorrow…