Pacific Northwest Beer Chick

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Great Britain and Ireland (Final) April 24, 2018

Filed under: Great Britain & Ireland — pnwbeerchick @ 1:42 pm

London

Bittersweet morning.

My bags were packed and outside my room, hair and makeup done, and I was dressed and ready for the day. It was the last full day of my trip. Though we still had a few more sights to see as we made our way back to London, I was a bit sad that it was almost over. But, we had a lot to do, a lot to see. Let’s not worry about what is coming to an end and instead move forward to what’s ahead!

We all hopped on the bus and began our journey to our next destination: Bath, England. This gorgeous city sits on the River Avon and is known for its 18th century Georgian architecture and the Romans baths which were built around 60 AD. Thus, the name “Bath.”

Now, up to this point, I thought it was pretty amazing to visit the medieval places we’ve

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The main bath, Bath, UK

ventured to on this trip. But, to actually walk through Roman ruins was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Sure, one could read a book, watch a documentary, or walk through a museum and see ancient artifacts . But it is something entirely different to walk the hallways, touch the walls, and see first hand the magnificent structures built by, arguable, one of the most advanced cultures in the ancient civilized world.

 

Built on a natural hot spring, the Roman Baths still flow. But, because of the mineral content (sodium, calcium, chloride and sulphates), the waters are no longer safe for bathing. In fact, the docents will request that you not even touch the water! In the large main bath, located in the center of the structure, the water is an opaque shade of green. It is open air with a second story overlooking the bath. Statues of Caesars and Roman gods and goddesses surround the second story of the main bath. Walking through the hallways, the stones are worn down and uneven from 2,000 years of footsteps.

There are several other bathing rooms inside of the structure but they have all been drained exposing the seating areas. Ancient artwork is displayed throughout the numerous chambers and rooms. The final chamber (leading into the gift shop, of course) contains the only spring still safe to drink from. The water is very warm, but does not have flavor. It’s just a cool thing to do.

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Hallway in the Roman baths, Bath, UK

I could have spent all day in the baths, exploring, learning, appreciating. But, Lauren, Chris and I decided to stroll around the city before we had to meet back a the bus. Just steps outside of the baths is a magnificent cathedral surrounded by the city. This lovely village is very walkable and filled with shops and restaurants. Bath was another one of my favorite places that I wish we had longer to explore.

 

But, as always, time being of the essence, it was back on the bus for us. Off we went to our last, and oldest, destination before heading back to London.

Believed to have been constructed approximately 5,000 years ago and taking an estimated 1,500 years to build, Stonehenge is a place shadowed in mystery and magic. The plains surrounding the monument are breathtaking! Rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. This is also the windiest place I’ve ever been to! At times, the wind was so strong, I was almost knocked over.

Before my trip, friends told me they were disappointed that Stonehenge is now blocked off from foot traffic by a “fence.” Yes, there is a knee-high tall chain surrounding the henge, but, you can still get pretty darn close to it. To me, the chain fence is a matter of necessity in the name of preservation. Centuries of people touching and walking around the stones was starting to damage the stones. The correct decision was made to block off anyone from coming too close to the stones, thus protecting it them eroding so future generations can enjoy their awesome beauty. And they are awesome! I’ve wanted to see Stonehenge in person since I was a child and this was a dream come true for me! Maybe I was caught up in the moment, but, I swear I got an indescribable vibe while standing in the shadow of this architectural wonder. One part of me wanted to stay and enjoy this experience, the other part wanted me to get the hell out of the wind! So, I jumped my butt back on the tram to the visitors center where we all did some shopping and had lunch. Then, it was back on the bus.stonehenge

Once back in London, we all realized it was time to say “good-bye” to our tour guide, John, and our driver, Simon. They both made our tour an entertaining and informative experience. We all took turns hugging them and saying our farewells. I will never forget them!

Lauren, Buttons, Sue, myself, and a few of our other travel companions decided to spend our last night in England together. We made dinner plans to walk to a steak house a few blocks away. Our hotel was located about a block from the Thames so we took a stroll along the river to the restaurant. Across the river Big Ben and Parliament lit up in quite the display making for some wonderful photos ops.

Our dinner was great, but, the company was better. We reminisced about our trip and the areas we loved the most. We talked about our new friendships and how happy we were to have spent the last 9 days together.

I enjoyed my last two beers in the U.K.: Meantime London Pale Ale and Sharp’s Doom Bar Amber. Both were very easy to drink, and both were malty deliciousness.

Our walk back to our hotel was again along the Thames. I tried to lag behind as long as I could to take in the moment. This adventure started 9 days ago and I still could not believe that I was in my dream place. I wanted it to last as long as possible. I thought that maybe, if I took a really long time to get back to my hotel, then my trip would not end in a few hours. I DIDN’T WANT IT TO END! I still had so much I wanted to see and do. So many places I was not able to visit. But, alas, we reached the hotel and it was time to turn in.

At that moment it sunk in that this was the last time I would see my new friends. We had experienced so much together in such a short amount of time. I’m so very lucky and grateful that I met Lauren, Sue and Buttons. I feel that I have made life-long friends. We still keep in touch on Facebook. They have assured me that I have a place to stay in Australia and I have assured them of the same in America.

I climbed into bed with a sad but content smile. I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep.

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Parliament building on the Thames, London

The next day was a typical day of packing, catching taxis and sitting in the airport. I took my seat on the plane home and was happy that I had a window seat.

 

 

Our plane took off and I stared out the window, silently, tearfully saying “good-bye” to the place I have dreamt of my entire life. I thought about my new friends and how happy I am that we are all keeping in touch. I thought about the incredible things I saw, smelled, tasted, heard and touched on my journey.

I can’t say enough good things about Trafalgar Tours! John and Simon were friendly, informative, and kept us entertained. The itinerary was wonderful. I highly recommend taking a tour when it is your first time traveling abroad.

This was the first real vacation I have taken by myself. As a newly single woman, it was a bit frightening to travel outside of my country alone. But, this trip was the beginning of a new chapter in my life and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made!

As the beautiful city of London grew smaller and smaller, I was grateful for my life anddoc marten everyone in it. I was grateful that I was able to take this trip and “find myself” again. I was grateful for all of my supportive friends and family. I was grateful for my new friends I met on this trip. I was grateful for the lovely beer I enjoyed in each country. I was grateful for all of the fantastic folks that read my blog and follow me on Facebook. I was grateful for all of the life experiences I have had, both good and bad. I was just grateful.

Did I get to try all of the beer that I wanted? Not even close. But, I got to experience amazing places and meet amazing people. This trip truly changed my life for the better.

So, climbing higher and higher into the sky, I said my thanks and farewells. I WILL be back.

 

Side note: The fine folks at The Reg in Waterford actually found Pleepleus and shipped him home to me! Thanks to everyone at The Reg!!

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Great Britain and Ireland (part 4) March 11, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 4:01 pm
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Kilmacanogue, Ireland

I was looking forward to my first morning in Ireland. I had a nice sleep, didn’t have too much trouble figuring out the shower or light switches, and had a yummy breakfast. Today, we were to board the bus and drive out to Glendalough Monastery. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I adore graveyards. Glendalough is an early medieval monastic settlement that dates from the 6th century and has an AMAZING graveyard. So much history!

Walking through the monastery gates, I was immediately excited and humbled. I can only imagine how many souls have walked through these gate over the past 1,500 years. Everyone from criminals and beggars, sick and infirm, souls seeking asylum have

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The oldest known headstone in Glendalough Monastery.

crossed into this sacred place. Some moved on, and some never left as evidenced by the thousands of headstones and markers that blanket the grounds. I came across what is believed to be the oldest headstone in the monastery. I was told by our guide that it dates back to possibly 600 AD. No one knows who is buried there as it only has an early Celtic cross carved into the stone. I was fascinated.

 

The monastery ruins still stand and are every bit as fascinating and beautiful as one could image. After our guided tour of the grounds, we were given time to explore on our own. I took this time to separate from my travel companions and spend some quite moments alone appreciating the souls that were buried there. Again, I was humbled.

Later that afternoon, we had a chance to spend the afternoon in downtown Dublin. Another gorgeous city, Dublin is teaming with history and architecture. Sue, Buttons, Lauren and I had lunch at the Mansion House. This eclectic pub is chock full of odd obscurities and memorabilia from decades past. It was a lot of fun to hang out. I enjoyed Hop House 13 Lager made by Guinness. Side note: I noticed that almost every “local” beer I had in Ireland was made by Guinness. I asked for the “local beer” everywhere I went. But, upon further inspection of the tap handles, the small print always read “Made by Guinness” or has Arthur Guinness’ signature. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every beer I had. It was just surprising that many of the “local beer” is actually a big beer company.

img_4690This is a perfect transition to our next stop on the tour: the Guinness Storehouse St. James Gate in Dublin. Yes, it’s “touristy.” Yes, Guinness is considered “big beer.” So what? Any beer lover SHOULD visit the Storehouse when in Dublin. I learned how to pour the “perfect pint” and learned a bit of history about this beer giant. It was a fun place to visit. And, of course, I spared no expense in the gift shop.

Later that night we were treated to a lovely Irish dinner show complete with step dancing and traditional Irish music. It was great fun. Then…the whiskey came out. Not being a hard alcohol girl, I smiled and choked down what I could. The saving grace was the delicious Irish coffee being served with dessert. Things had a chance to go sideways, but we all kept it together…except for Plee. He over indulged, just a bit. Ha!

We got back to the hotel and I thought I was done drinking for the night. But, the beer was calling so I stepped back into the hotel pub. I started with a McGargles Pale Ale and ended with Cute Hoor by Heineken. Both were pretty darn tasty but when it comes to names, the prize goes to Cute Hoor.

The next day we boarded our bus and headed to our next stop for the night. We passed

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Me & Plee in Kilkenny.

through the pretty village of Kilkenny for lunch. Staying true to form, Lauren and I headed to the local pub. I can’t say enough good things about the pubs in the U.K. And Ireland. They are all exactly how I envision a pub should be. Warm and inviting, beautifully adorned in history, rustic food, and great beer. I enjoyed a Kilkenny Irish Draught. This creamy Irish Ale went well with my fish and chips. Very smooth and creamy. This is another beer brewed by Guinness. They’re EVERYWHERE.

 

Waterford is the Ireland’s oldest city having been founded by the Vikings around 914 AD. Some of the ancient Viking ruins dot the city. Before heading to our hotel, we stopped off at the Waterford Crystal factory and witnessed first hand how the famous crystal masterpieces are made. Quite fascinating.

Once we hit our hotel in Waterford , Lauren, another trip mate Chris, and I headed down to the hotel bar for a few drinks before walking the waterfront for dinner. I enjoyed a delicious ale brewed by Metalman Brewing. This was another of my favorites on the trip. Hoppier than most of the other beers I’ve tried while in the U.K. And Ireland, it was crisp and had a lovely finish.

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Waterford, Ireland

The three of us headed off along the waterfront to a local pub called The Reg. This darling pub is exactly how you would picture an Irish pub to be. Warm, inviting, and cozy. Live Irish bands play in the corner. The food is outstanding. The three of us enjoyed the food, beer and conversation. But, this night would end on a bit of a tragic note…

 

The next morning as I was packing my suitcase, I began looking for Pleepleus. I looked in my jacket, my purse, the suitcase, all over the room. He was no where to be found. Silly enough, I went into panic mode. I packed as quickly as I could and decided to retrace my steps from the night before. I walked the two blocks back to The Reg looking all along the sidewalks wondering if I had dropped him somewhere. Sadly, he was no where in sight.

I lost him. I was very sad. My numerous travel companions were also very sad. They grew to love the little guy and many volunteered to walk along the streets to look for him. But, time was of the essence so I had to accept that I lost him, and jump on the bus. After all, we had a ferry to catch to Wales. I tearfully hoped that someone would find Plee and take good care of him. Later in the day, a lady traveling with us brought me a new monkey she found in a local shop. He’s a darling little guy and wears a sweater with a large “L” on the front. I named him Larry. Thus, began the last leg of my trip with Larry, Pleeplues’ Irish cousin.

Wales is an absolutely breathtaking country! In fact, in my opinion, Wales rivals Ireland in beauty. Rolling green hills, tiny villages, breathtaking views. Today’s tour was a winery in the Welsh countryside. Glyndwr Vineyard is family owned and operated and is the oldest and largest vineyard in Wales. This gorgeous vineyard is surrounded by picturesque landscapes and dotted with tiny lakes and gardens. We took a tour of the vineyards, stopped off to feed the winery’s family of alpacas and sheep, and then dined on a beautiful lunch lovingly prepared on the grounds. Our lunch consisted of local cheeses, quiche, local sausages, and colorful veggies. It was delicious!

During lunch, I sat with the usual motley crew of Sue, Buttons and Lauren. Joining us at our table were some of our other travel mates also from Australia and New Zealand. I was the only non-Aussie/non-New Zealander at the table. During our lunch Sue took over the conversation, looked at me and stated “we have all decided to make you an honorary Kiwi Aussie.” I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO PROUD! I love my new friends!

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Carmarthen, Wales

 

We boarded the bus for our next stop for the night in the capital city of Cardiff. Unfortunately, the weather was ghastly, so there was no sight seeing to be had in Cardiff so I have no comments about the sights and sounds of the city. We arrived after dark and the rain was coming down sideways. I elected to spend the evening in the hotel pub and unwind. I took Larry down with me. Again, with the great beer name, I ordered a pint (or a few) of Brains Smooth by Brains Brewery right there in Cardiff. This incredibly smooth, easy to drink, low ABV was perfect to end a long day.

While sitting in the pub, I observed what was a gaggle of young lads prepping for a bachelor party. They joked, bantered back and forth and laughed, a lot. They were pooling their money looking for “singles” for what I could only imagine was for some sort of scantly clad female that was to be their evening’s entertainment. Over all of the masculine voices I suddenly heard “well, it’s better than a fist up the arse!” I did my best to muzzle my chuckling. I looked at my bartender (also a female) and she looked back at me, shrugged, and said “welcome to Cardiff.” Yes, welcome indeed…

 

Great Britain and Ireland (part 3) February 10, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 11:00 am

Funny thing I found out about hotel life in the U.K….one must have an advanced degree in order to figure out how to work light switches, showers, and hair dryers. I awoke early the next morning to have everything ready and outside my hotel room door in time to load it on the bus. I did not want to be late again today. Well, when it came time to figure out to turn the shower on, I had to step back a second and play with the knobs before getting it right. The hairdryer on the other hand, stressed me to the point of tears. No matter what I tried, I could not get the hotel hairdryer to work. I plugged it into every socket in the room, pushed the reset buttons on the outlets, everything! But, could not get the bloody thing to work. I could have thrown my hair in a ponytail and called it a day, but, I had nothing to tie it back with. I have naturally curly, frizzy hair so letting it dry naturally was out of the question. At this point, I’m starting to run late again and I’m panicking. I called down to room service, choked back my silly, vain tears and ask for another hair dryer. The desk clerk, feeling my pain (I’m obviously not the first tourist he has had to explain this too), explained to me in the kindest voice that I simply had to switch the dryer on, then push the button on the side of the handle, and hold it down the entire time I’m drying my hair. Oy vey.flag

With my hair dry, my bags packed and in the hotel lobby, I climbed into my bus seat only to hear my travel mates complain about experiencing the same problems with he hair dryer and the shower. Now, I didn’t feel so ditsy.

The next leg of our adventure took us up to my ancestral homeland: Scotland. The countryside on the way up was postcard perfect. Rolling green hills and tiny Tudor villages kept me glued to the window. How I wished we could have stopped off into these darling villages, even only for a few minutes, just to check out the quant English country life. But, having to keep to the schedule, we pressed on.

Our first stop was right across the Scottish boarder to the tourist trap know as Gretna Green. Famous for runaway weddings, Gretna Green’s blacksmith shop hosts weddings complete with anvil to make the union “official.” There is the tiny chapel, a museum, and, of course, gift shops. It took us all of 30 minutes to see everything Gretna Green had to offer and Lauren and I spent most of that time in the gift shop. The saving grace? A

Me and Plee

Me and Plee

tiny bar inside the gift shop giving out free gin tastings!! Now, I’m not a hard alcohol kind of gal. To me, hard alcohol tastes like gasoline. But, how could I say “no” to a free tasting? The gin I tried was a blackberry gin made right there in Scotland. I was so impressed with the yumminess, that I actually bought a bottle!

We hopped back on the bus, but as we were backing out of the parking lot we noticed we were missing one passenger: Sue hadn’t made it back yet! So, we promptly alerted John and Simon and pulled back into our parking space. A few minutes later, Sue boarded the bus and took her short “walk of shame.”

Now in my first post, I mentioned my little friend Pleepleus. It felt strange when I first started taking photos with him. I noticed many a strange look from the other travelers. But, by the second day of our tour, if the others didn’t see him right way, they were asking where he was and smiling when I pulled him out to take photos with him. One day I left him on the tray table of my seat while we made a quick “pit stop.” Lauren stayed behind on the bus and said that every person that walked off the bus gave Plee a petting. She wished she would have taken a photo for me. For something I thought was childish and silly, Plee has become an ice-breaker and conversation starter. I’m so happy I decided to bring him. I highly suggest anyone who travels, take along a little friend. It’s amazing how many people you will meet and how much fun you will have!

Crossing over the Scottish border was eventful. Suddenly, all of the road signs were in written in English and Gaelic. So cool! We drove through tiny Scottish villages until we reached our destination for the next two days: Glasgow. Unfortunately, Glasgow was a huge disappointment. I got such a weird vibe from the moment we pulled into the city. The only way I can describe it…Imagine walking into a warehouse and there are boxes stacked in the corner because no one knew what else to do with them. That is the feeling I got when we pulled into Glasgow. Very cold, industrial, like everything there was not where it was supposed to be. I was uneasy the entire time we were in the city. Odd.

Luckily, we had dinner in neighboring Stirling. What an amazing little village! This tiny medieval village sits about 20 minutes outside of Glasgow. Cobblestone streets wind through he village with a mix of centuries old and turn of the century structures. There are a few old ruins dating back 500 years standing throughout the village. The cobblestone roads wind up a hill to the infamous Stirling Castle.

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Blessed haggis

 

We were to meet our guide for the night at the castle. He was the epitome of Scottish gentleman, right down to the kilt! We had a clear view of The Wallace memorial in the distance. I only wish we would have been able to visit the memorial. Instead, we all stood at the foot of the Robert the Bruce memorial statue as our guide told us the history of the area, including the famous Battle of Stirling and of Scotland’s favorite son: William Wallace. Freedoooooooom!!!! When the history lesson came to a close, our guide grabbed his bagpipes (real ones, not metaphoric) and like the pied piper started playing a gorgeous tune leading us down the cobblestone road to the place where we would dine for the night.

As we settled in for our meal, our guide began to tell the tale of the haggis. He stood with a large platter in hand and upon that platter was the dreaded clump of oaty, mincemeaty goodness. I don’t know about you, kids, but I LOVE haggis. But, in all honesty, I’ve only had the American version of it. So, to have real Scottish haggis was something I was looking forward to on this trip. In a booming voice, our guide held the platter up high while giving a blessing to the haggis in the old Scottish speak. He warned us ahead of time that when giving the story and blessing that we may not understand what he was saying due to the old world pronunciation, and he was right! We couldn’t understand most of what he was saying, but it was interesting nonetheless. Then, he pulled out a large dagger and plunged it into the haggis. We were each given a small portion wth our meal. It did not disappoint! One hasn’t truly lived until they have dined on haggis. I won’t go into too much detail about it other than it’s like eating a mushy sausage. I HIGHLY recommend trying it if you have the chance! It looks disgusting, but, it’s yummy! Promise, cross my heart!

The beer choices with dinner were quite nice. Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Golden Ale and Harviestoun Schiehallion Craft Lager. Both were very smooth, malty. I couldn’t decide which I liked better. Both were perfect with our dinner, both were easy to drink. Let’s call it a draw.

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Edinburgh Castle

 

The next day we were off on a field trip to the most amazing city I have ever been to: Edinburgh! This gorgeous city is a mixture of 13th century structures and modern 20thand 21st century architecture. Sitting on top of a hill in the middle of the city like a crown jewel is Edinburgh Castle. The closer you get to the castle, the older the structures. Once at the castle, my mind started wondering to what Scottish life was like 600 years ago. We walked through the castle walls and were greeted with a breathtaking view of the entire city! I walked through the open rooms of the castle and couldn’t believe I was walking in the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots! It was a remarkable moment.

After touring the castle, Lauren and I exited the castle walls and walked through the ancient streets to a delightful tavern for lunch. Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, just steps from the castle walls, was charming and inviting. The ceilings were adorned with painted thistles and flowers. The food was delightful. I had my second helping of haggis (I love the stuff) along with mash (mashed potatoes) and some sort of mashed concoction called “mashed swede.” I took a couple bites of the swede (rutabaga) and left the remainder on my plate. Turns out, I’m not a fan of the mashed swede. But, at least I can mark it off my list of stuff to try.

Lauren and I did some shopping in this old section and I purchased a quaich

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Edinburgh, Scotland

(pronounced “quake” with extra phlegm in your throat). It’s a piece of my Scottish history that I’ve wanted for many years. I now proudly possess one.

Once our shopping (and drinking) were complete, we boarded the bus and headed back to Glasgow. Once back at the hotel we got ready for dinner and headed out to our restaurant. I enjoyed a pint of Tennent’s and a lovely dinner. Unfortunately, our beer selection at dinner was limited to just this one beer but, I made up for it back at the hotel lounge. Calendonian Brewing (owned by Heineken UK) produces Three Hop Lager. This is a lovely beer, and probably one of my favorites of the trip! Most of the beers I’ve had on my trip up to now have been on the malty side. I LOVE malty beers, but this one was a bit crisper with a slight spice to it. Quite nice!

The next day we all boarded the bus on our way to the Scottish coast. We were to board a ferry to Belfast, Ireland, but, the largest hurricane to hit Ireland in over 50 years landed the day before throwing off all of the ferry schedules. The original plan was to take the Ferry to Belfast, tour the city for a few hours, then make our way to Dublin for the night. The hurricane delayed our ferry ride for four hours. So, to pass the time, our tour guide took us to the Scottish coastal village of Stranraer. What a darling village! Lauren and I walked through the village, did some light shopping, and then found a tiny, out-of-the-way tavern called The Arkhouse Inn.

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Me and The Arkhouse Inn

It’s odd, when in the larger cities in Scotland, the brogue isn’t very thick and I can understand pretty much everything everyone says. These smaller villages…not so much. I felt incredibly obtuse asking the locals to repeat what they said so I could understand them. But, everyone I met was incredibly kind and patient with this dense American. Lunch at the Inn was simple and pleasurable. I had a Belhaven Best with lunch and enjoyed listening to the locals discuss their day (from what I could understand of the conversation).

 

Our time to board the ferry came and I have to admit, I boarded with a bit of trepidation. I knew I was possibly going to be seasick. I took some seasick pills and hoped for the best for the 2hr ride across the Irish Sea. Turns out, I fared pretty OK. We landed in Belfast 4hrs past schedule so a tour of the city was out. However, our tour guide was able to give us about 20 minutes at the Maritime Museum in Belfast. The museum sits at the site where the fated Titanic was launched. The museum building site was built to represent the Titanic’s icon bow. Each corner of the building is built to scale of the ship’s bow and demonstrates how massive the ship was. It’s quite breathtaking and awe inspiring!

We jumped back on the bus and made our way down to Dublin. I was fascinated by the signage along the highways. The names of the streets, highways and towns were written in English and Irish. I learned quite early that the Irish do not call their native tongue “Gaelic.” They speak “Irish.” Please, remember that!!!

We made it to Dublin and were quite exhausted. Luckily, our hotel had a pub. Lauren, Sue, Buttons and I grabbed a table, a couple of pint and chilled for the night. Tomorrow we hit he Irish countryside. But, fingers crossed I can figure out the shower and hair dryer. Ha!

 

Great Britain and Ireland (part 2) December 24, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 11:56 am

I struggled to get a sound night’s sleep. Excitement, I imagine. But, I had to have my bags packed and ready by 7:00am to load onto the bus. The next morning I dragged myself out of bed, showered, and staggered downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. The typical fare was being served: sausage, eggs, cereals, etc. I noticed that British “bacon” is nothing like American bacon. British bacon is actually a small, thin slice of ham. Yummy!

I woofed down what I could (I was running a bit late) and headed down to the bus. There I met our guide for the duration of the trip: John. He is quite handsome and his New Zealand accent is too adorable. Anyway, I looked at the seating chart and boarded the

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Shakespeare’s birthplace

bus. My seat was the first seat right behind our driver Simon. Both gentlemen were wonderfully patient and very entertaining. My seat mate was a tall, witty lady from Australia. Lauren proved to be a great seat mate and travel companion! She was quite funny and always kept me entertained. Sitting across from us was a sweet lady named Sue and her very hilarious husband “Buttons.” They are originally from New Zealand but now live in Australia. They are grandparents taking a whirlwind tour all over Europe. I adore all three of these fine folks and we spent a great deal of time together on this 10 day tour.

So, we all took our seats and started off on our journey. Our first stop was Stratford-Upon-Avon. Located on the banks of the River Avon, this darling Tudor village is the birthplace of William Shakespeare. His childhood home is a beautifully preserved two-story cottage turned museum. We walked through each room of the home and I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful yet simple rooms. Exposed beam ceilings and uneven floors revealed the age of this home. The period furnishings are not original to the house but you still get a feel for what life was like 400 years ago. It was amazing to think that I was standing in the home where one of the world’s greatest writers was actually born and raised.

After the tour we had about an hour to grab some lunch and head back to the bus. Rebel that I am, I decided that I would flip lunch the bird, set out on my own, take a quick stroll through the village and head over to the church where Shakespeare is buried. I walked through the busy village admiring the centuries old structures that still housed shops, apartments, and pubs. I made my way to the outskirts of the village to the Church of the Holy Trinity. This gorgeous gothic church is surrounded by large, shady trees and a graveyard with headstones almost as tall as I am!

I stepped inside the church and right away was in awe of the beauty of the architecture. Giant vaulted ceilings, stained glass, and intricately carved pews filled the room from top to bottom. I was overtaken by the beauty in the craftsmanship. I thought of the men that painstakingly carved, chiseled, hammered, and nailed this amazing structure and all that it housed. I was in awe.

I made my way through the other tourists to the chancel where Shakespeare and his wife Anne are buried. For a donation of £3 I was able to step into the chancel and stand

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“The Shambles”

literally inches from the grave of the greatest playwright that ever lived. William and Anne are buried side-by-side in the floor of the chancel. As I stood and studied these graves, it hit me as to where I was and what I was looking at. It was a humbling moment.

Suddenly, I glanced at my watch and realized I only had about 10 minutes to find my way back to the bus! But, where the heck was I in conjunction to the bus lot?!?! I RAN all the way back while navigating the streets trying to remember which ones I took to get to the church. I made it to the bus just in time. I took my “walk of shame” down the aisle as I was playfully harassed by my travel mates for almost missing the bus. Our next stop was the medieval town of York, AKA “The Shambles.”

This amazing city is the oldest medieval city in England. Though many of the structures date back to the 1300’s, the history of York begins around 71 AD with occupation of the Romans. All of the buildings are still in full use today and rumor has it that J.K. Rowling fashioned Daigon Alley after the town. After seeing for myself, I think those rumors are true! What a whimsical place!

The city is surrounded by ancient stone walls for protection from invaders. The streets are narrow and paved with the original cobblestones and have become a bit uneven over time making walking on them a bit of a challenge. The centuries old structures are two to three stories high and hidden alleyways are sprinkled throughout the village. Crowds of tourists, shoppers and residents fill the streets making it a bit hard to see all of the details, but, it was exciting to see a town this old still fully in use. It was also refreshing to notice that there was not a Starbucks or other “big name” shop in the village. Just “mom & pop” shops and pubs. Some having been in the same spot for centuries!

The heart of York is it’s minster. Construction of this gorgeous, gothic structure began in 1080 by Archbishop Thomas. Again, due to time constraints (and the fact that it cost £10 to walk inside) I decided not go go any further than the minster’s massive front doors. Perhaps I will on my next visit.

There clearly wasn’t enough time to see everything in York. This is a city I must (and will) visit again.

IMG_4254 (Edited)

The Pine Marten

We hopped back on the bus and headed to our dinner stop for the night in Beckwithshaw. The Pine Marten is a pretty, stone restaurant surrounded by mature trees. The sun was setting as we arrived and the pink and orange sky highlighted the structure beautifully. Lauren, Buttons, Sue and I sat down to our “Welcome Dinner” (as part of our tour package) and enjoyed a lovely traditional meal of Yorkshire pudding and bangers & mash. I ordered two of the local beers on tap. Tonight, I had Black Sheep Best Bitter from Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, Yorkshire and Leeds Pale Session Bitter from Leeds Brewery in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Both are 3.8% ABV, both are quite nice and easy to drink. Malty, smooth, and complimented my meal rather nicely.

After our dinner and pints, we headed off to our hotel in Harrogate for the night. I remembered my age as soreness crept into my legs and back from walking on uneven cobblestones and sidewalks for the last day and a half. But, I wasn’t going to complain. So far, my dream trip was off to an amazing start! Day 1 of the tour comes to end as I do my best to calm my mind and get some rest. The day held more amazing sights than I could have ever dreamed of. And this is only my 2nd day in England!

Tomorrow…off to bonnie Scotland!

IMG_4254 (Edited)

 

 

Great Britain and Ireland (part 1) November 10, 2017

Filed under: beer,British Beers & Ciders,Great Britain & Ireland,IPA — pnwbeerchick @ 4:46 pm

What can possibly be written about Great Britain and Ireland that hasn’t already been put to paper? The beauty, history, tragedy, and triumphs of these two islands have inspired artists, poets and writers for millennium. And after my recent trip, I can certainly see why.

Last month I took a 10 day tour of Great Britain and Ireland. It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had and I would like to share it with you fine folks.IMG_4139

Now, my very dear friend Joy suggested that I take something with me to take photos with, like a doll. I thought about it and remembered that I had a Pleepleus doll that may be kind of fun to take with me on my travels. This proved to be true! So I packed Plee with me and took him everywhere. He was a great conversation starter, and it really was a lot of fun taking photos and creating a little story just for him. He will now be my permanent travel companion.

I signed up through Trafalgar Tours. The trip was to cover all five countries in eight days. And boy, did we ever!

After a 9 ½ hour, non-stop flight from Seattle, I landed in London on Friday the 13th. I had a private driver take me from the airport to the hotel. As we made our way through London, my driver was kind enough to point out various areas I may want to visit during my stay and gave me a bit of a history lesson along the way. We passed by so many amazing sights: centuries old buildings and homes mixed in with modern construction, gorgeous parks, and monuments a plenty. My head was swirling! I couldn’t believe I was actually in London!

My hotel was across the street from Hyde Park and the Marble Arch. I was traveling alone. Having never been to London before, I did not know my way around. My tour didn’t leave until the next day so I had the afternoon and evening to do with as I pleased. I asked my concierge to point me in the direction of Buckingham Palace. Yes, I’m fascinated by the romance of the British Monarchy. So sue me.

My concierge was concerned that I was going to walk there, by myself. He tried to talk me out of it by telling me it was a good 30 minute walk. In my best Maureen O’Hara I replied “that’s just a good stretch of the legs” and asked him to point me in the right direction. He pulled out a map and highlighted the best route. Off I went.

The walk along the busy city street of Park Ln was fascinating. I was surrounded by every ethnicity I could possibly imagine. Languages and attire from all over the world, just on this one street. It was fascinating and beautiful.

IMG_4118The sidewalks were a combination of old cobblestone and modern concrete. One really had to watch their step to keep from tripping and falling you’re your butt. As I crossed streets, I glanced down the alleyways and side streets. The beautifully aged buildings were covered in layers of black soot. History.

I crossed the main street called Piccadilly and made my way through Green Park. The park was full of tourists and locals. All enjoying the lush trees and green lawns of the park. Many were sitting or strolling in the sun. Others were taking a snooze in the shade. I wished that our parks back home saw such wonderful use.

I got to the edge of the park and looked up to the familiar building: Buckingham Palace. We’ve all seen the palace on TV or in magazines, but it’s not until you are standing in front of it that you really appreciate the majesty of the structure.

I crossed one final street and made my way to the front gates. Heavily armed guards stood watch at each entrance reminding me of the current times we’re living in. As I looked up I saw the grand balcony. For centuries that balcony has seen first wedding kisses, birthdays and coronations. It was exciting to be standing in front of such a great piece of British history and majesty.

The sun was starting to set so I finished snapping my photos and started heading back toIMG_4142 my hotel. I crossed back through Green Park and hoofed my way up Piccadilly. Down one of the aforementioned alleys was a darling pub straight out of a travel guide: Rose & Crown No. 2. I had forgotten I hadn’t eaten all day so I decided to stop in for a bit to eat and a pint. The pub was quaint and traditional. Old character and charm, wood panels, paintings and portraits of England’s heroes. There was even the expected fireplace in the corner! It was everything you would expect to see in an English Pub. I made my way past the glances of the locals and found a table all to myself next to the fireplace. I made my way through the crowd up to the bar and ordered my pint and a bag of “crisps” (potato chips to us Americans) and took my seat back at my table.

My first beer in the U.K. was GK IPA by Westgate Brewery. I love British IPA’s and this one was particularly nice. It was smooth, malty, and very easy to drink. Pair it up with some salt & vinegar chips…sorry, CRISPS, and it was a nice snack before dinner.

I settled in to my table and just observed the humanity around me. I listened to the wonderful accents and enjoyed the moment. I was really in England. I was really in the country I’ve dreamed about visiting since I was a child. It still didn’t seem real, but there I was.

As the sun lowered and the sky dimmed, I decided it was best to finish up and make my way back to my hotel. Buses and black cabs lined the streets picking up passengers. Luckily for this dumb tourist, there were markings at each cross walk reminding me which way to look for traffic. More than once I was almost barreled over because I forgot that Americans drive on the “wrong side of the road.”

I got back to my hotel, kicked off my shoes and realized how ridiculous tired I was. It was only 7:00pm but I was absolutely exhausted. I decided to call it a night. Jammies on, lights out, and settled in for the night.

Tomorrow, the tour starts.

 

October 11, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 10:58 am

Making final preparations for my trip to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales! Stay tuned, gang!

You can follow my trip on my Facebook and Twitter pages!

 

Hey, kids! I’ve been taking a bit of a break. But, new postings are coming soon!!! August 15, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 11:02 am
 

 
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