Tag Archives: EF

London Day 1

Day 1 in London started a little rocky. My puny sickness was now a full blown cold. UGH! No voice, felt like crap. But I was in London. No way was I going to let a little summer cold stand between me and the sights to see.

This was my third EF trip to London, but the first time we ended there instead of starting there.

The night train dropped us at St Pancras station which is right across from Kings Cross, so several kids ran to get photos of Platform 9 3/4. I ran to the pharmacy for cough drops and cold medicine.

Usually when we get to London we go on a walking tour of the city because we’ve been on an international flight and waking up is essential. This time we started witha  bus tour. After the hostel one night and the night train the next, I kind of think a walking tour might’ve been a better idea because a bus tour while you’re sleepy is tough stuff! Our  local guide was awesome, but I don’t think we heard much of what she said.

1 off the bus

I made myself stay awake for the Westminster Abbey stop. I’ve still never been in Westminster. That must change next time I go to London!

2 I'm a tourist 4 the EyeWe stopped the bus for a few quick pictures and a walk around the outside of Westminster. Then back on the bus for the tour to St Paul’s. I love St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing that it survived WW2 relatively unscathed. One of my former students is in London right now for study abroad and she said firefighters stayed on top of it during the bombings to keep it safe. I believe it.

3 bombed church by St Paul;sRight around the corner from St Paul’s is a church that didn’t survive the bombings. Instead of rebuilding, the surviving walls were left standing and the area’s been turned into a park. I’d love to know more of this story. One day I’ll go to London for a longer stay and delve more into the history. EF does city stay trips, too. There’s still so much I haven’t seen, though, that I want to wait for one of those until I’ve seen more of the world.

After St Paul’s we took the tube (Mind the gap!) to our hotel in Greenwich to drop off our luggage. I used the time to drink Vitamin Water and try to feel better. It worked. When we left the hotel, we knew we wouldn’t be back until that night, and we had a packed day ahead.

First we went to EAT. This little restaurant is one of the favorite stops for my group of returning travelers. It’s a great place to eat with awesome fresh food. They were excited when we found one. My one new traveler loved it as much as the rest of us by the time we left London.

After food we continued on our walk toward Covent Garden. But first, we

5 obligatory Penguin picturestopped at a book store. I did not go in the bookstore, but I did get my obligatory penguin picture because I collect penguins. It started with my students years ago, but now it’s me. It’s nuts how many penguins I have in the newsroom. I love them all.

After the stop we made our way across the Thames for a walk to Covent Garden. We accidentally ran into the Strand, which meant pictures of famous addresses and possibly famous people. I loved the address 6 Pearson Publishingplaque on this building and security was everywhere, so I figured it was someplace special. Maybe even royal.  Turned out it’s the address of the business US Politicians love to credit with the salvation of education while those of us in the trenches call it the home of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Pearson Publishing. AKA Test Central.

7 The SavoyRight next door is the Savoy. One day I’ll stay at the Savoy. Or maybe not. I think a nice B&B will do, but the Savoy sure looks cool.

Covent Garden is just a couple blocks from this area. We made it there and split up to shop and just take in the sights. Making it there was an adventure. Our guide was with the group going on the Eye. We chose to leave him so we could see more of the city. So armed with a map and our memories we made the trek across town on our own. Definitely worth it.

8 Living Statues in Covent GardenCovent Garden is a must see in London. It was raining while we were there, but the living statues never stopped performing. The acts in the square were entertaining and the shopping delightful as always.

9 Indian FoodWe met up with our group after that for our London dinner. Indian Food! Indian food is probably my favorite thing to eat in London. It’s so amazing. Maybe it’s amazing everywhere, but we don’t have it in Wichita Falls, and if I could eat it every meal in London, I would. Curry=awesome. This time my group had to eat separate from the rest of the group because they didn’t quite have enough space for us. We made it an adventure.

And then it was time for the night’s highlight. Wicked.

I could see Wicked a million times and not get tired of it. This was the third. And it was still awesome. 9 Wicked

Day 1 in London was done and it was time to head back to the hotel. At the end of the day I was happy. Still sick, but happy. My first international trip with EF my guide told me they try to let us experience the towns in a way that we can come back and feel comfortable navigating our way through town using public transportation while also educating us on the history. This third trip made it clear the system works. I truly understand London now. Going back on my own won’t be a problem…one day. My next EF trip will be the first that won’t include London, but I will be back because I love it. #

*****

If you like my blog, check out my books.

I think my Elizabeth Lee guardian angel mystery series (Dead Girl Walking soon to release, An Angel Gets Her Wings) might make a London stop soon!

 

 

 

Bonny Scotland

Saying goodbye to the hostel was no problem. I was sick that night, so I guess the room didn’t really matter. Besides you don’t go on these trips for the hotel. You go for the sights. even though I felt puny, I decided to focus on the fact that I was in Edinburgh. It was easy with sights like this:1 something different

Our first stop for the day was the castle. I could’ve stayed at the castle all day. There were so many interesting things to look at. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards museum is there. You might know them because of their Amazing Grace on bagpipes that’s so popular. (Click the link and at least have the music playing in the background. Totally worth it.)

Mary Queen of Scots: crowned as a baby.

Mary Queen of Scots: crowned as a baby.

I walked around the royal rooms while at the castle and saw the Scottish crown jewels. It’s fascinating that they found a random wand that wasn’t supposed to be in the jewels when they opened them. I’m totally working that into a book one day.

Everywhere we went in Ireland and Wales people were excited because we were going

to get to see the Scottish Tattoo. I didn’t get the excitement. I mean, I’m not opposed to tattoos. I think they’re cool on other people sometimes. What was so special about Scottish tattoos? Come to find out the Scottish Tattoo is a

3. tattoo

military procession. I WISH we could’ve gotten to see it. Instead we just saw them erecting the seating for the event. That was pretty impressive.

We left the castle and made our way down the Royal Mile over to the Scot monument and tons of shops. It was beautiful 4 amazingsunny day. Everyone in Edinburgh walked around like they were in the middle of 100 degree weather. We soaked in the sun and sights and all the interesting performances on the square by the park and museums.

Scotland was so gorgeous. When I grow up I want to spend some major time in5 park the Ireland, Scotland, Northern England part of the world. The tour was great, but I want to be there for enough time to get it in my bones. I’m seriously in love with that part of the world.

 

We were scheduled to leave by night train that evening, so our wonderful guide scheduled us for a fun “Ghost Tale” walk with Adam Lyal. We made our way up the Royal Mile to to Witchery and met Adam. His fun tour was a combination of history and hilarity. We saw so much more of the area, learned about the history of witch executions and had more than a few laughs. 6 witchery

Emily was chosen as the witch in our group. She was a great sport!

Emily was chosen as the witch in our group. She was a great sport!

8 Adam Lyal 7 royal mile

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the tour, it was time to head to the train station and the trip to London. This was the last thing I saw in Scotland. It sums up my thoughts perfectly:10 an appropriate end

The night train is always an adventure. It’s NOT comfortable, but it gets you from place to place while you’re sleeping, and honestly it’s better than international flying.  By this time my puny had turned into a cough. Ugh. I was ready to sleep no matter what. When we boarded the train Susan and I discovered our room was a handicap room, which gave us LOTS more space than everyone else in the group and put us right next to the bathroom. Everyone was jealous. A few minutes before the train left, we discovered our door wouldn’t latch. The porter told us we had to move rooms, and we were sad for about 10 seconds. Our room move:


11 upgrade

First Class. First Class on the night train means you have your own room and a blanket. It was awesome.

When I went to sleep I was happy. Coughing, but still happy. London was up next. I love London. Goodbye Scotland. I will return! #

*******

If you like my blog, check out my books on Amazon. I write christian fiction as Mary Beth Lee and Young Adult as Elizabeth Lee.

 

 

 

 

 

Wales

1 luggage

My luggage, tagged and ready for the ride to Holyhead.

Everyone I talked to said to be prepared for a rocky ferry ride from Ireland to Wales. Even our awesome guide told us to make sure we took our Dramamine.

View out the ferry window

View out the ferry window

So we were all pleasantly surprised that our ferry ride was more like a cruise. The water was calm, the sun was shining. We were happy campers.

ON and I on the bus in a new country.

ON and I on the bus in a new country.

Wales was beautiful. We skipped the town with the longest name because our guide told us the name was made up anyway. He’s from Wales, so he was excited to show us around. We barely spent any time there, but what we saw was beautiful.

I loved that we could see Snowdonia. It reminded me of the Game of Thrones books. We traveled to Beaumaris, a huge medieval castle. As we walked around I could just imagine the people who actually lived there in this beautiful area when the castle was actually a place of protection.

I’ve heard Wales is home to more castles than anywhere else in the world. It would be fun to come back some day and do a castle tour.

We didn’t stay too long at the castle because we had a long drive to Manchester, but what we saw was amazing.

4  beaumaris wales castle 8 wales view 7 wales gat at castle 6 wales flowers at castle 5 wales castle

*****

If you like my blog, check out my books! Writing Christian Fiction as Mary Beth Lee and Young Adult as Elizabeth Lee

From Poison Gardens to Traffic Jams: Ireland

Ross castle was in the town we stayed at first on our trip. We knew Ireland was special when we saw this view in the distance. Leaving Killarney broke my heart just a little.

Ross castle was in the town we stayed at first on our trip. We knew Ireland was special when we saw this view in the distance. Leaving Killarney broke my heart just a little.

The very first picture I took in Ireland is probably my favorite.

I loved Killarney so much. The people were incredible, the town so beautiful, the food fresh. The air felt clean. It might’ve been cold and rainy, but it made me so happy. Leaving made me sad, but we had more to see and do.

We weren’t staying in Dublin for that part of the trip. Instead we were staying in the seaside village of Bray, which sounded fine and dandy to me. Off we went on the new adventure early Sunday morning. In Ireland. If you’ve ever been to Ireland, you know what that means. We had no idea.

2 Blarney Me 3 Blarney CastleFirst stop though: Blarney Castle. ON and I climbed to the top so she could kiss the Blarney Stone. I thought about kissing it too, but after climbing all the stairs in the rain, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get back up. You have to lay down on your back all the way at the top of the castle. Once you’re on your back, you wiggle backwards while someone holds you up and you kiss the stone. Kissing the stone is supposed to give you “the gift of the gab.” Supposedly after you kiss the stone you can convince anyone of anything. So yeah, not something I needed to do. But I didn’t regret climbing to the top of the castle.

4 Poison Garden at Blarney 7 Wolfsbane 6 Henbane 5 PG MandrakeWhen we got down, we walked the Blarney’s Poison Garden. FASCINATING. Mandrake, Wolfsbane and Henbane were all there. The historical novel reader in me was thrilled, not to mention my inner Harry Potter fangirl.

9 Rock of Cashel, Celtic Cathedral ruinsWe left Blarney and headed to Bray, but first we needed to make another stop: The Rock of Cashel, a celtic cathedral ruin. I loved Cashel. They had a potato famine wall and The Rock felt ancient. They’re restoring part of it now.

Cashel was the first place it quickly because apparent Ireland on Sunday wasn’t like Ireland other days. Only one tiny tea shop was open.

When we got to Bray we were a little disappointed because we weren’t right on the beach. Our guide told us it was a short 30 minute walk to the ocean, and we decided we’d kick ourselves if we were that close and didn’t go check it out.

10 BRay Susan A 11 Bray BHalf way there it started raining. When we got to the beach, we realized Ireland really does close shop on Sunday. The casino on the beach was open. Nothing else. My friend Susan frowned and told me it looked just like Dover. We visited Dover two years before. I was fine with it looking just like Dover. Pretty rock beaches make me happy. Pretty rock beaches in Ireland make me even happier. When it started pouring on our 30 minute walk back to the hotel, I tried to focus on the positive. It was pretty tough, though. We were cold, walking uphill, and a little bummed that nothing was open. Susan told me she was never listening to me again about getting out of the hotel room and going to check out the scenery.

But we laughed about it the rest of the trip.

12 Dublin and Michelle ObamaThe next morning we woke up and headed into Dublin and the Book of Kells at Trinity College. The trip was supposed to take around 20 minutes. It took 2 hours. The traffic was awful. At first we thought it was rush hour in the big city, but then we learned the truth. Michelle Obama was in Dublin and the city streets were almost at a standstill.

When we made it to Trinity, we learned Michelle Obama was there, so the display was closed. Bummer.

We did eventually make it in to see the Book of Kells display. Fascinating stuff. And we got to shop Dublin. I’d like to go back some day and do the Viking tour for sure. Maybe see an Irish dance show. But not on a day the First Lady is visiting. Some in our group actually got her picture. We all laughed at the fact that they had to go to Ireland to see her.

Our night closed with the only bad meal of the trip: Carrot Curry. It was so bad it was funny, though, and that made it okay.

When I went to bed that night, I repacked my suitcase and sighed. I’d completely fallen in love with Ireland. I didn’t want to leave. But we had Wales, Scotland and England to go. #

*****

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The Ring of Kerry: I Left My Heart in Ireland

God’s Country. Ancient. Amazing.

1 First pic of Ocean and RocksThose were my thoughts as we reached the water on the Ring of Kerry drive in Ireland. I loved Ireland before. Now, it surpassed Paris.

The scenery here took my breath away and gave me chills. I could not believe how gorgeous it was. We were on bus full of people, half of whom were teenagers, and silence reigned for a moment when we turned the corner and saw this.

After quite awhile of breathtaking scenery, we stopped for the sheepdog 2 sheepdog demonstrationdemonstration. Our tour guide, Paul, told us he’d never seen it before, but he’d been told it was amazing. We learned to trust Paul.  The sheep and dog owner started the demonstration by telling the teenagers to think before they got a dog. He told them dogs need people, so don’t get one if you’re not going to be home. AND he told then to be aware of their space before they get a dog because Collies like his need lots of space and they’re super smart, so they need to be doing something all the time. Small space=small dog. Busy and gone all the time = no dog. Finally, he told them to never let someone else train your dog. He said YOU can go to training with someone else with your dog, but never to give the dog to someone else to train without you. I loved the demonstration, but I think his dog advice was worth the 5E admission.

Next we headed to lunch at the Scarriff Inn with Ocean views. 3 gorgeous 4 me and ON Paul made our reservations here instead of the place EF suggested because he said the ocean view was the best on the drive. I believe him!

5 Ocean 6 At the beachAfter that we made our way to the sea.

Thankfully, it was sunny. Cold still, but way better than the icy rain we’d experienced regularly up until now.

7 River at Sneem

After lunch we made a few stops, but my favorite was Sneem, Ireland. We were prepared for this quaint Irish village with a great Woolen Mill and other shops. What we got was the O’Sullivan Clan meeting. Wow! The place was packed. Security waved us into town and waved others out. Little O’Sullivans walked around in WANTED shirts with their pictures on them. Food carts were everywhere and the pubs were full. The river in Sneem reminded me of the river in Duluth, so I took a picture.

Finally we headed back to Killarney, this time through the Killarney National 8 Torc Waterfall at Killarney National ParkPark so we could hike up to Torc Waterfall. And by hike, I mean ouch. There are more steep hills in Ireland than anywhere I’ve ever been. Still, the view was totally worth it! One of the dads nearly died here, but as he started to fall off the side of the bank with a 12 ft. drop, he did some super human upper body jump that propelled his whole body forward. He lived. 🙂

The walk down to the bus from the waterfall was way easier than the walk up, so I was able to look around an enjoy the scenery instead of thinking DEAR GOD WHAT AM I DOING while trying to play off the whole out of shape, breathless thing I had going on.

9 Fae home 10 Fae in hidingI’m glad I could look around because this is where I got the magic. After this, I totally understood fae, leprechauns, fairy godmothers. One of these trees is hiding wood fold. I’m sure of it. The other is a fae home. Look at the ground around the trunk.

When we got home, we walked around Killarney window shopping. Tis was our last night in Killarney. Dublin was next. I was excited for Dublin, but I knew I’d be leaving my heart in Killarney. I think it’s still there! #

If you like my blog, check out my books. I write Christian Fiction as Mary Beth Lee (Grace is Enough, Letting Go) and Young Adult as Elizabeth Lee (Dead Girl Walking, Honor and Lies). New book trailer coming soon!

 

Ireland Day 1

I’m always excited to get on international flights, but when we boarded the plane in Chicago for the long trip to Shannon Ireland, I worried. The plane was as small, maybe even smaller than ones I’d taken to Vegas.

Sleeping on the flight is imperative or you lose at least one day. Sleeping in the United Airlines plane with no leg room and people squished in like sardines would take some serious will power.

I did not have the will power. I wish I would’ve take photos of some of the kids on the trip though. They took off their shoes, huddled in little balls on their seats and slept for hours. Maybe at their age I could’ve huddled in a ball like that, too. Or maybe if I’d kept up the Pilates. Or….no, no way.

So the flight out was sleepless, but there were plenty of movies. Thanks, United. I enjoyed the latest 007.

Flying into Shannon it quickly became apparent we were in for a treat. There’s a reason Ireland’s called the Emerald Isle. Oh my gosh, it’s gorgeous.

When we landed our awesome guide Paul greeted us with news that our other groups were delayed so he sent us to see Limerick.

Even though I was exhausted, I could tell I was going to love Ireland.

Ross Castle, Killarney

When we got Killarney we took a jaunt (carriage ride) to Killarney National Park and Ross Castle. The lushness took my breath away.

I loved Ireland, but at the end of day one, I really had no idea. I just knew one thing: I needed sleep. Bad. The fact that it didn’t get dark and our room had skylights didn’t bother me at all.Skylights over the bedsOur Killarney room

At Killarney National Park

At Killarney National Park

Ross Castle Pretty trees