Pacific Northwest Beer Chick

Breweries, Beers & Good Times

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

bath

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.

bath hallway

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.

big ben

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 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.

 

 
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