Incredible Iceland— Akureyri-Day 2

I was glad we had come back a little early from our first day tour so I could be up at what would be dawn at home (5:30 am) to see old town Akureyri and I got lucky and had a great walk. I didn’t get rained on but the by the time I got back it had really started coming down. I will leave it at that and you can see what I saw in my photos. Later on, some of the group went into town but Kathleen was wiped out so we stayed on board and the whole gang was back for a late lunch at The Porch (a Reflection alternative seafood restaurant) and it was wonderful. A great lunch. Some super fresh seafood and some of the best sangria I have ever had. Drank way too much of it. We sailed out late in the day and it was a beautiful sail out up the fjord. This was followed by two sea days before we would dock in Cobh, Ireland. More about that coming on Sunday.

When I prepare, I am not messing around. I find the right places, the right people, and the right environment. Iceland is one of those places. —Conor McGregor

 

Incredible Iceland— Akureyri-Day 1

After what seemed like a very short night we sailed down an incredible fjord into Akureyri, Iceland’s most important northern city. It’s small town (a population of only around 27,000) but it is the gateway to some pretty amazing natural wonders. The day started with beautiful weather and the sail-in made for some great photos. 

I almost forgot to mention that before we got to Akureyri the captain of Reflection decided to make us all what my friend Bob (a long-time Navy guy) calls “Bluenose Sailors” which I am sure means we have been inside the Arctic Circle. He sailed the entire ship north of where he needed to so we could say we had been inside the Arctic Circle. What a guy! We even got a certificate. Kind of the like the one we got when we crossed the Equator many years ago on our SouthEast Asia cruise.

 

We were met by our guide Auðun of No.17 Tours. He had been recommended by the god of shore excursions, my buddy Mike Preisman. Mike had used the services of Auðun a few years ago on their Icelandic cruise and had spoken highly of him. He was right. I should point out that Auðun told us his company used to be Taxi 17 because when it wasn’t touring season, he would drive a taxi but now the government says he is too old to do that. He can drive a bus, a truck and a tour van but at 76 he can’t drive a taxi. Who would have thought. He is an amazing guy who really knew the area he was showing us. Plus he had some great stories from his 27 years as the skipper of a fishing trawler. 

We set out a little earlier in Akureyri as the ship was docked and let us off by 10:30. Auðun was ready for us and we were off to see the northern waterfalls, stand with both my feet in different continents and see some other amazing geological wonders as well as two versions of the Blue Lagoon. And we finally got to see puffins. We had missed them before on previous trips to places where they live but this time we got to see a bunch. Check out the photos for all the sights we saw. 

Even though we had gone out earlier than we had in Reykjavik, the weather had turned both cold and gray and by the time we had seen the puffins and the waterfalls, we were wiped out so we asked Auðun to just head us home and we were off to the ship were we pretty much caught a late dinner and collapsed. But we did have a super day and the Icelandic landscape is even more amazing up north. 

 

I still don’t know why, exactly, but I do think people can have a spiritual connection to landscape, and I certainly did in Iceland. —Hannah Kent

Incredible Iceland— Reykjavik-Day 2

Most everyone else in our party slept in a little bit after getting back at almost midnight from our Golden Circle tour with Birkir. I on the other hand, love it when a ship overnights in a port so that I can get up early the next day and walk through the city. (One of my best photo walks ever was in Québec last October when we overnighted on Summit). More and more cruise lines are doing this (overnighting in cities) and you can get off and on whenever you want all night long. This was a good day to do that but I really missed that early morning golden light I had when we were in Edinburgh and Dublin.

I got up at 5:00 am and headed out to walk the seaside walkway into downtown Reykjavik but the light outside was already like 10:30 in the morning as you can see from my pics. I got some decent stuff and then headed back to the ship to shower and meet Kathleen and others in our group to take a taxi back into downtown to see some more of the city. My pics and their captions will pretty much tell the tale on that. Don’t forget to click on the first one and view them as a slide show. And if you want to see more, check them out on Flickr by clicking here.

We were back on the ship by 2:00 pm and Reflection set sail for Akureyri at 3:00. It was a pretty great day considering how little sleep was involved. Thursday, I will post all about our travels in Akureyri, in the north. And we cross the Arctic Circle! 

Coming soon to a travel blog near you

So our trip is done and we are recovering from 27 hours spent in airports and airplanes to get home. Today is all about laundry and resting up. Not a great trip home due to so many things. Among them were weather (Denver airport closed for a time as we were attempting to land so we got to circle for a while), late flights and construction at airports made this a really long day.

I wasn’t going to add this but I want to see it in print so feel free to skip it. This is what our travel home day was like.

  1. Woke up at 3:15 am onboard Celebrity Reflection (As usual, couldn’t sleep).
  2. Left Reflection at 6:45 am (early).
  3. Arrived at Dublin Airport at 7:35.
  4. Sat in shared business class lounge with Bob and Holly until our flight to London Heathrow left at 10:50 am.
  5. Arrived London Heathrow, Terminal 5 at 12:20 pm.
  6. Transferred to London Heathrow Terminal 3 for flight to Denver. Took the better part of an hour.
  7. Sat in British Terminal 3 Business lounge until 2:40 when we boarded our flight to Denver.
  8. Arrived in Denver at 6:15 pm Denver time after circling due to weather.
  9. Stood in line for almost an hour at Customs in Denver as all inbound flights had been held for weather and then all arrived at the same time. It was a bloody zoo.
  10. Due to the fact that we could not get a Business Class award flight direct to Seattle we flew to Denver (instead of home to Seattle) we had to now check all our luggage back in for a short flight to Seattle (that we paid for…in coach) that was supposed to leave at 7:35 pm.
  11. Due to all the late arrivals, our flight didn’t leave until 9:06 pm.
  12. Arrived in Seattle at 10:55 pm.
  13. After getting our luggage we grabbed a Lyft and wound up getting home at 11:45.

So that was our day. Too long. And all to get award seats from BA via Alaska Miles. Which will bring me to a future post on finding award seats in the near future. I promise.

And now to the reason for this post. The schedule of what is to come this week. My plan is to post Iceland day 1 tomorrow afternoon, Iceland day 2 on Tuesday, Iceland day 3 and 4 on Friday. Hope that keeps you all up to date without overwhelming anyone with too much to read.

Technology doesn’t address everything – for example, air travel still sucks. —Brad Feld

Blustery Belfast

Sitting in the Club World Lounge in Terminal 3, Heathrow, I think I have enough time to upload Belfast (their WiFi is pretty good and it is already written). We shall see. It was the next stop after we boarded in Dublin where I left off (other my WOW Iceland post and my Woeful WiFi post).

We awoke on our first day after leaving Dublin to a truly blustery day in Belfast. Due to tides we weren’t able to dock until almost 11:00 am. As soon as we were able, we walked four of our party who had never been to Belfast before out to a private excursion I had arranged through Tours by Locals that would take them to up the Antrim Coast to Giant’s Causeway. We had done this on a previous visit to Belfast and we along with four others in our group who had been here before decided to forego that and pay a visit to the Titanic Experience. 

I fully realize that visiting a museum dedicated to a cruise ship that sank by hitting an iceberg while on a cruise seems to be tempting fate but we went anyway. If you are in Belfast, this is a must-see. They have done an excellent job of detailing pretty much everything about the Titanic, its building, the times it was built in and so much more. Not only are there a number of excellent exhibits, there is even a ride. Who knew? We were pretty surprised. It was a great tour and worth the money and time. 

Our original plans after the Titanic experience had been to jump on the HoHo bus but since it was pouring rain, we crammed ourselves into a taxi and headed back to the ship. All and all, a pretty decent day.

Remember, you can click the first photo to see the pics larger and as a slide show.

Post note: Wasn’t able to upload everything in the lounge. Finishing up at home with my usual AWESOME WiFi. Exhausted but more about that later.

The Titanic hit the iceberg not because they could not see it coming but because they could not change direction. —Dean Devlin

Dublin never sleeps and is CRAZY!

I am so serious. This city never sleeps. Went to bed with a huge, post football party going on at every bar on the street. Woke up to the party still going on. Seriously, drunks staggering down the middle of streets, trash everywhere. It even inspired me to write an Irish poem about it. Or I was inspired by the Irish House Party last night.

Dublin Sunday Morning
Beside the lovely Liffey, it didn’t make no diffy.
Dublin’s kind of iffy Sunday morning.
Trash and drunks all over, mixed in with poop from Rover
I didn’t see one clover,
Sunday morning. 

Hope you enjoyed that. You will see in my pics from my early morning walk exactly what I am talking about. And there is another NSFW verse about something else I saw that you will have to ask me the next time you see me.

After my walk and breakfast we headed out to use the second day of our HopOn/HopOff (HoHo) bus pass with Big Bus Tours. Here’s what I have to say about Big Bus Tours…never and I mean NEVER use this company. There is another HoHo bus company. BigBus drives red buses, the other guys drive green. Use them. Let me explain.

There is a marathon going on today in Dublin. The finish line is on our street actually a block from our place. We realized yesterday that this would mean that some stops would not be available today due to the race. So we checked the company website and their app. Both said that the only thing that was rerouted would be the two stops near Marion Square. I have a screen shot that says these ae the only low numbered stops that were going to be affected. So we (just Kathleen and I) walked quite a few blocks to the other side of St. Stephens Square where we had seen the bus drop off and pick up yesterday. But guess what? The bus wasn’t dropping off or picking up there. So I called the phone number I had for them and asked. She said that because of the race, they were picking up and dropping off on the other side of the park. So with my bad knee and Kathleen neuropathy killing her legs we walked back across the park (it sucks to get old). When we got there, there was a bus. We asked the driver whether he was the red or the blue line (they have two routes) and said “I am neither. We aren’t using this stop today. You will need to walk to Stop 2 (about 10 minutes away.” Normally, no big deal but the way our bodies were working today—a very big deal). So I called the company back and was told that the number I was calling was not really the bus company but rather a number in a tourist agency and they would take a message. (No wonder the woman didn’t know about the St. Stephen’s Green bus stop change.) I asked for the number of the actual bus company and she said, she didn’t know it and even is she did, she wasn’t allowed to give it out. Please excuse me here but “WHAT THE HELL????”

But we did it anyway only to get there and find out that the stop only picked up Red Route (which we had done yesterday) riders. If we wanted blue we would have to get on and go three stops up and change busses. What the hell…again! See what I mean about this company. We took the bus to the next stop and were told it would be 20 minutes until the Blue bus came and we just gave up and walked back.

LiveGuidesAnd one other thing. On the back of every bus was the ad at right. Only problem was, it wasn’t true. We rode four different busses and my brother and his family rode four others. On only two of them were their live guides. The rest had almost unintelligible, recorded (with music) narration. Boring with a capital B.

On our way we had a nice lunch, picked up some art and postcards for family and friends (yes, we still do that) and headed back through the marathon mess to home. On the way I stepped on a piece of pavement that was dry but had water and mud underneath it and shot straight up onto the other leg of my jeans that had just been washed. So now we are home washing them again and hoping they will dry tonight before we have to pack them to board the ship tomorrow. No dryer in this unit.

I am finishing this at 4:35 am Dublin time on June 3. We are off to the ship in about five hours. I am not sure how often I will be able to post while on the ship but I will try to do it on a somewhat regular basis. Our stops include Belfast on the 4th, then Reykjavik on 6th and 7th and Akureyri on the 8th & 9th before we head to Cork on the 12th and finally back here to Dublin on the 13th.

 

Paris is cafe culture, Dublin is pub culture, and that’s the best place to solve all the world’s problems: over a pint! One of the great joys of living, I think. The problems of the world seem to disappear. —Liam Cunningham

 

Started shaky but finished strong in Dublin

This morning I was out the door before 5:00 am to walk Dublin streets and take photos. I got a bunch that I really like including a ton of doors to add to our collection. (If you have ever been in our home, you know we have more than 100 photos of doors on the walls.)You will find a lot of my favorites below. But while I was walking alongside the River Liffey I got a  text from Kathleen that she wasn’t feeling well and was going to go back to bed.

We had planned to join the rest of our Bellomo/Dorff entourage on the Hop-on, Hop-off (HoHo) bus but this put a slight crimp in our plans. Instead Kathleen slept (remember when I slept in last week, the day we toured Leeds?) in and the rest of the gang went off to ride the bus and I worked on my photos from the early morning. By 11:00 Kathleen was up and ready to go get some food and then we did a round of the HoHo bus ourselves. We rode all over Dublin (it’s a pretty compact city) before we came back to the house to FaceTime with our kids back in Washington. Had some big news there as they did what they have done before while we have been in Europe, started a big move.

This evening the entire group of us including Bob and Holly met up for a dinner and a show at the Irish House Party. It’s a combo dinner and show and we should have just gone for the show but we did both. Not the best food (kind of Irish cafeteria food) but adequate but the show is outstanding and if you are in Dublin, it’s worth seeing. Just get tickets for the show and skip the dinner.

Tomorrow we still have HoHo bus tickets and a few others things we want to do before we board Celebrity’s Reflection to sail to Iceland on Monday. Here’s the pics and remember, they look better if you click the first one to watch a slide show.

Irish music in the local pubs was my first exposure to musical expression, and I feel like Irish music is very close to musical theater because it is always telling a story. —Rory O’Malley

On to Dublin

After six days in Yorkshire we bid a fond farewell to Paul and Gail. Paul drove us to the airport at 6:00 am (thank you again Paul) and Gail got up to tell us goodbye (thank you again Gail). We caught our 8:22 Aer Lingus puddle jumper flight from Leeds-Bradford airport to Dublin. Arrived 10 minutes early, but unfortunately, our ride to the hotel arrived an hour late. After that snafu, we got a great driver who took us in to the city to our luggage drop where we…dropped our luggage. Then we walked a few blocks to meet our buddies Bob and Holly for lunch at a great little place called O’Neals. A real Irish pub. It was great seeing them again. Bob and Holly, not O’Neals.

After that it was back to pick up our luggage and head to our AirBnB where we got settled, welcomed my brother and his family around 4:30 (they were wiped out after flying non-stop from LA) and went out to dinner to Brookwood, an outstanding restaurant that turned out to be right across the street, we watched a little more of Britain’s Got Talent and it was off to bed.

A couple of quick thoughts about Dublin and our AirBnB. Dublin seems more crowded and crazy than Edinburgh and definitely more than wonderfully sedate Leeds and Yorkshire (where of course we were staying in a neighborhood and not right down town as we are here). For instance, we have a very famous pub (Toners) and a couple of bars across the street from us. Normally when I get up to walk in the morning (like today when I am up at 4:30), it’s quiet in the neighborhoods. Not here. There is still a loud crowd out in front of a bar down the street (I can see the bar from our front window). At 4:22 am??!! Do these people ever sleep? Our AirBnB is pretty cool. The host, whose name is Phil, met us and has really taken great care of us. A super guy. We have a big living room, a gourmet kitchen (not that we will cook) and a four bedrooms. Check out the listing at the link above. Another win for us picking great AirBnBs. It even has a bakery downstairs and we will see how great they are later today.

As I was finishing this up at 4:30 am I realized that for the first day in 10 days, I hadn’t taken any photos. Well, I took two. Both out the window from the living room. One of the world famous Toner’s Pub and the other of Brookwood, the restaurant where we had dinner (they make a wonderful lamb) so sorry, that’s all you get today. But as I am going out in about 10 minutes for an early morning walk, you should have much more tomorrow or tonight.

Fabulous place, Dublin is. The trouble is, you work hard and in Dublin you play hard as well. —Bonnie Tyler

Wensleydale, Ilkley and back to Leeds to meet a special lady

Our last full day in Leeds was all about getting home and getting ready to head to Dublin tomorrow. When I posted last night we were on our way out to dinner at the Wensleydale Heifer. Their food is the main draw to the inn. It makes it a destination and the reputation for food is well deserved. I wish I had taken more photos but you will have to settle for dessert photos.

After a very filling dinner it was off to bed, a good night’s sleep and then I had my encounter with the Wensleydale Heifer shower. Our room came with a spa jacuzzi tub (that if you tried to fill it with hot water, would have taken more than an hour—worst water pressure ever) and a shower in that tub. No matter how I tried, I could not get that shower to turn on. Tried for more than an hour. Of course I did try to call the front desk to ask them what the trick was but that’s when I found out that no one is at the front desk until 8:00 am. Seriously, no night manager.

Finally at 7:30 I went down and found a very nice lady who was cleaning the lobby and she told me to look for a black cord on the opposite side of the bathroom and to pull it. If I did that the shower would come on. Seriously? How were we supposed to know that. At first I thought it was a British thing but Paul and Gail said they had never heard of it. Just crazy. Thankfully we did finally get showers (still worst water pressure ever!) Other than this one thing, the hotel and especially the restaurant were outstanding.

After a large and really great breakfast we were headed off to Leeds by way of some of the narrowest roads we have ever driven on. It was crazy. Paul did an amazing job of getting us back. We had considered a stop in Grassington but when we got there it was POURING rain and we decided to forego a stop.

It was on to Ilkley where we stopped for our last proper Yorkshire tea at the Ilkley Bettys (remember, no apostrophe) and one last Fat Rascal. After that (since the sun had finally started coming out and the rain had stopped) we decided to walk around Ilkley before heading back to Paul and Gail’s.

When we arrived back at their place we got to meet the best (and definitely the cutest) person we met on this trip, their adorable granddaughter, Jemima. We have never met such a smart and creative six year old (in case Maylee reads this, remember you are only five) and she was a true charmer. And Paul and Gail are obviously very proud and loving grandparents (another thing we have in common).

I am finishing up early tonight because we are going to dinner in a few minutes and then we will come back, watch a little more Britain’s Got Talent and then off to bed as we have to leave for the airport at 6:00 am to fly from Leeds to Dublin. See you there.

You have to accept the storms and the rainy days and the things in life that you sometimes don’t want to face. — Bai Ling