Picture Perfect!

I don’t think I’ve ever had what I would call a bad day on a cruise, but they’re not all created equal. Sometimes a port or an excursion doesn’t meet expectations. Sometimes the weather causes a change in plans. Sometimes a meal isn’t to my liking. (I know, that’s a real problem since there’s definitely a lack of food options on a ship!🙄) But sometimes everything falls in place and I have a perfect day. Greenock was one of those…it was exactly what I hoped for and more!

We woke yet again to bright sunny skies, and watched the sail-in to Greenock while we enjoyed a quick breakfast on our balcony.

I was very excited about our plans for the day…we were taking a tour of the Highlands with Photo Walk Scotland. Our small group was me, Jim, and just one other couple, Marci and Dale from Canada.

I had struggled for a long time with what to do in this port — go into Glasgow? Take one of the standard offerings to Loch Lomond and Sterling Castle? I just couldn’t decide. Thankfully I read a review on Cruise Critic and knew immediately I had found the excursion for me! I contacted Tommy (Tom Docherty) at Photo Walk Scotland right after I read the review, and we had many pleasant e-mail conversations planning our day. We had an ambitious itinerary, but Tommy felt certain we could get to the places he suggested and still make it back to the ship with time to spare.

We disembarked as soon as the ship was cleared, and there at the gate to exit the port was our wonderful guide for the day. Somehow, even though we were together with our cameras for 9 hours I neglected to take a picture of Tom. Google to the rescue…here’s one I found by doing a search:

We were off to see the Highlands! We had a pretty long (but scenic) drive to our first stop at The Green Welly restaurant/gift shop/gas station. We hugged Loch Lomond for most of the drive.

We stopped at The Green Welly for about 30 minutes for a much appreciated bathroom break and breakfast (our meals and beverages were included in the cost of the tour). I had a very filling bacon sandwich and explored the shops for a few minutes before we headed to Kilchurn Castle, our first photo stop.

The ruins of Kilchurn Castle are on the banks of Loch Awe. The main part of the structure dates back to about 1450.

Our second stop was also a castle — an occupied one this time! Castle Stalker is located on a small island in Loch Laich. It is believed that the current structure was built around 1440. Today it is privately owned, and is open to the public by appointment at selected times during the summer.

After getting our fill of castles we were off to Glen Coe. The town of Glencoe lies in the midst of the glacial valley and mountains, and it was there that we made two stops…the first at the church and cemetery and the second for lunch at Crafts and Things. Crafts and Things is a combination café, clothing store, and craft shop with a simple but filling and delicious menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches. I had a toasted sandwich with turkey, Brie, and cranberries. The bread and the cheese in Scotland and Ireland were outstanding. I couldn’t help myself!

These pictures of Crafts and Things are from the Internet:

After a great meal, we headed out to see the scenery in Glen Coe. Tommy was great about allowing us just enough time to feel like we were having a quality experience, but making sure we didn’t run short when it came to getting us back to Greenock. He was also great with crowd avoidance. It was a beautiful summer day, and I’ll let the pictures of Glen Coe speak for themselves.

Our last photo stop of the day was at the Blackrock Cottage near the entrance to the Glencoe Mountain (ski) Resort. When we left there we settled in for the long ride back to Greenock, with another stop at The Green Welly for good measure.

Summary…like photography? Take this tour! Don’t really care about photography? Go anyway! The scenery is phenomenal and Tommy is a delightful guide who clearly loves sharing Scotland with his guests. His company does other tours, including some longer trips to more remote areas. We’re eager to go back and hope to take a Photo Walk Scotland trip to the Isle of Skye in the spring of 2020.

Tommy got us back as promised, and once on board we had all of about an hour to get cleaned up and presentable for our Chef’s Table at 6:00. I actually surprised myself by how fast I can move when it’s necessary (or there’s food involved!).

This was one of, if not the best Chef’s Table we’ve been to. Everything about it was top notch…the setting, the food, the service, and even the souvenirs. We started in the galley for champagne and hors d’oeuvres, and then we were seated at the screened table in the dining room for the rest of the meal. Admittedly, I felt a little conspicuous parading through the dining room in the middle of dinner service to get to the special table, but I soon forgot about it because the whole experience was so exquisite.

Dinner ended a little after 9:00. I was tired but too full to sleep, so I made a donation in the casino before I called it quits. Jim went to The Beatlemaniacs show at 10:00, and thought it was just OK.

Back in our cabin, I surveyed the mess we made running in the door and scrambling to get ready for dinner, decided it could wait until the next day, and quickly fell sound asleep. We finally had a sea day the next day, and I was really looking forward to doing nothing, and then doing nothing again! We were far enough into the trip that the idea of having no place we needed to be and nothing we needed to do (until an afternoon wine tasting) was very appealing!

The Element of Surprise

We woke on Thursday to grungy grey skies.😮 Wait, what? Grey skies weren’t on the agenda! Luckily the clouds lifted and we were back to “the usual” by the time we got to our first main stop.

We had planned a very full day with City and Causeway Tours. There were eight of us, and we had opted to spend an extra £15 each to have four in a vehicle instead of six. In hindsight, it was a good call because our day in Northern Ireland involved a lot of time in a van.

We left port right on time and headed towards the coast with our driver, Mick. He was excellent, and Mick taught us a lot about Northern Ireland and “the struggles” as only someone who has lived through and had their life altered by events can.

Things didn’t look too promising weather-wise as we started our day. It wasn’t a wash-out, but it was grey and the light was very flat. Not at all what I wanted when we were headed out to see the scenery! Please excuse the dirty windshield photos…

We drove through the countryside headed towards the coast, and Mick told us a little about what we were seeing and how Northern Ireland is really still very much a country divided. That is very evident as you pass through small towns and villages…the homes in the Nationalist/Catholic towns fly the flag of Ireland, and the Unionist/Protestant families fly the Union Jack. Throughout the course of the day Mick shared his experiences, and his story really helped me understand the “struggles” of Northern Ireland in a way I never had.

Our first stop was in (I think) the town of Carnlough, where there is a Game of Thrones filming location, and more important a large public restroom and coffee shop! We didn’t stay too long, because our goal was to try to stay a step ahead of the big buses. Most of our group walked across the street to see the stairs from the harbor that were used in filming an episode of Game of Thrones, but since Jim and I have never watched the show we were content to just stretch our legs. This picture is from the Game of Thrones website:

Shortly after we left Carnlough, we were treated to some luck of the Irish. One minute we were looking at grey skies and in an instant we found ourselves driving down a country lane enjoying brilliant blue skies and abundant sunshine (again)!

Our first real stop was at a scenic overlook where we could see the countryside, the sea, and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. We didn’t cross the bridge because of time constraints…our itinerary was ambitious!

From there it was a short drive to a beautiful scenic overlook at White Park Bay, and then a stop at the Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy, another Game of Thrones filming location (and restroom stop!🙂).

Mick then took us to an incredible, unexpected surprise…Ballintoy Harbor. The harbor is down at the bottom of a steep, narrow road — more like a path really — and definitely isn’t accessible by any big buses. What a gem Ballintoy Harbor was! Rustic, tranquil, and unspoiled by massive numbers of visitors, it was a very unexpected highlight of the tour. We stayed there about an hour, but I could have lingered for the whole day.

We followed Ballintoy Harbor with the day’s main attraction, Giant’s Causeway. Is it spectacular? Yes. Breathtaking? Yes. Crowded? Yes. Commercialized? Yes. In other words, it is a natural marvel, but one that everyone wants to see. The causeway is an area of about 40,000 basalt columns that was created by an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. The result looks like a moonscape or something from a sci-fi movie.

Interestingly, admission to the UNESCO World Heritage site is free. Admission to the visitor’s center and access to the bus is for a fee. I had read it was faster to walk down to the columns and take the bus back, so that was what I did. I was misinformed. The “line” for the bus was so long and disorganized that by the time I reached the top there were seven fellow tourists and two drivers waiting for me.

All the beautiful scenery and fresh air made us hungry, so it was lucky our next stop was at the Wee Cottage by Dunluce Castle for lunch. It’s a popular spot, being somewhat the only game in town, but it’s tiny and therefore it was pretty crowded. Mick had called ahead and we did manage to get two tables, but I don’t think they could have fit another person in there. I also don’t think they could have fit another object in there…to say it was filled with tchotchkes would be a gross understatement!

To be honest, my ham and cheese sandwich was nothing special. Maybe if it had been grilled the shredded cheese wouldn’t have kept falling out. As it was, it was messy! My sandwich might have been just OK, but dessert was another matter entirely. The scones with juicy strawberries and freshly whipped cream were awesome.

We took a look at Dunluce Castle after lunch, but didn’t go in. We had one more stop to make and sights to see in Belfast.

Our final stop in the Antrim Coast area was Dark Hedges, another Game of Thrones filming location. I thought the trees were beautiful and mysterious, but again, never having watched the show I wasn’t as excited to see the location as some others. The last image of Dark Hedges is from the Game of Thrones website.

We headed for Belfast after that, where Mick gave us a quick tour of the Peace Walls and the murals. During the tour of Belfast, Mick got pretty choked up. He has lived with the tension his whole life, and even lost his Protestant (Unionist) family when he was disowned for marrying a Catholic (Nationalist).

Although there is a peace agreement, the two sides still don’t mix, and that is very apparent looking at the clearly divided neighborhoods, tall walls, gates that close each night at 11:00, and homes along the walls protected by wire cages so they can’t be damaged by projectiles. I didn’t get the sense of “peace” so much as “uneasy truce” and it seems like things could erupt again at any time. Emotions are running especially high right now because of Brexit and the worries of those who currently travel freely between Ireland and Northern Ireland. They fear a physical border where they are now free to cross between the countries, and therefore being cut off from their friends, their extended family, and their heritage. I thought it was heartbreaking to hear about things from Mick’s perspective.

We said our good-byes to Mick at Titanic Belfast, where we were spending the last few hours of our day. You really can’t travel in Ireland without being surrounded by Titanic history, and no place is it more evident than in Belfast where she was built. Titanic Belfast sits on the old site of the Harland and Wolff shipyard where the Titanic was built. These pictures of the outside of Titanic Belfast are from Wikipedia:

I thought Titanic Belfast was very well done, taking visitors from the bustling city of Belfast at the turn of the 20th century, through the planning, building, and outfitting of the ship, the maiden voyage, the sinking, and the aftermath. Large windows overlook the area where the gantries for the Titanic and the Olympic once stood and from where the ships were launched. On the concrete you can see painted outlines indicating where the funnels, and lifeboats were located. There are wooden benches in the same location they were on the deck of the Titanic. It not only gives visitors a good sense of scale, it also makes you “see” people walking the decks or trying to fit in a lifeboat on that tragic night.

I thought this was very interesting since we visited the Titanic cemeteries when we were in Halifax last October. Pictures of the two graves mentioned here can be seen below. The small boy #4 has since been identified.

At the end of the slipway you can see the Royal Princess. Directly across the channel from the modern cruise ship dock is the old Thompson Graving Dock and Pumphouse. Behind the building is the giant dry dock where the Titanic was fitted out.

Our time at Titanic Belfast ended right at 7:00, when the museum closed. Honestly, by then we were ready to go back to the ship. We had been gone 11 hours and packed in just as much as we could. The ship looked close, and it was, but the only fast way to cover the distance would have been to cross the channel in a dinghy. Our taxi didn’t have that capability, so we had to go around and it took about 10 minutes.

We freshened up and for dinner went to Alfredo’s with Deedee and Chip. I don’t think any of us had an interest in getting spiffed up enough to go to the dining room. We just wanted something casual, and Alfredo’s fit the bill perfectly. Besides, their Sangria is awesome!

Deedee and Chip probably found some nightlife after dinner, but we didn’t. We had another really ambitious itinerary for the next day, AND we were booked for the Chef’s Table the next evening!

I’m not sure what I expected, but I was surprised by Northern Ireland in so many ways…the beauty of the coast, the warmth of the people, the tragedy of their ongoing struggles. Northern Ireland was always kind of mysterious to me — much like Russia or Cuba. It was forbidden fruit! Having lived in London in the early-mid 1970s, all I ever heard about Northern Ireland was it was a place where there was a lot of fighting between Protestants and Catholics. IRA bombings were always in the news. I found the fighting is gone but the tension and animosity is not. Past wrongs are certainly not forgotten. I also learned Northern Ireland is so much more than the struggles. I hated to leave, but we sailed away right at 9:00, headed for Scotland!

Beautiful Ireland — Outside Dublin for the Day

We woke up early on Independence Day, were greeted by the usual brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine☀️, and started getting ready for our day in the Irish countryside. I was happily sipping coffee a little before 7:00 when the phone rang. The phone ringing that early is never good, and when I looked and saw it was the lead sister from the Fab Four I got a sick feeling in my stomach.

To make a long story short, the lead sister thought she “might” be coming down with something, so she was going to stay back. It gets better…her husband was also going to stay back to take care of her. I did some quick calculations in my head and figured the cost wouldn’t be too bad with three couples. I told her I hoped she felt better and we’d see sister #2 and her hubby at 7:45. It gets better…sister #1 said sister #2 wouldn’t go anyplace without her! In other words, a 60 year old woman refused to go on a tour she was obligated to because her sister thought she might be getting a cold!😳 I was furious! For starters, even if they decided not to go, they should have still paid. You can’t drop out of a tour less than an hour before departure and completely shrug off your obligations! Secondly, I had said no to lots of people for the tour because we were full. To have four spots go unused at the last minute really bothered me. Even though it cost us a lot more (€225 per couple instead of €112.50), I was angriest about their total lack of consideration in not letting me know until it was too late to find anybody to fill the spots.

My gut feelings about Fab Four from the day before were right. I now think they missed the Meet & Greet on purpose, because I don’t think they made name tags for 80+ people. I think they just made a few as they went along for the people they knew they would see. To top it all off…they did this again to another group a few days later. Just incredible. I’ve planned excursions with strangers for years and I have NEVER had anybody completely dump on their fellow roll call passengers like this.

I really enjoy the trip planning process, including finding and booking great tours. This experience has made me a little more cautious. I don’t want to handle other people’s money, but maybe I’ll have to look for companies that will take payments in advance directly from the participants. Tuesday was paid in advance, and the Fab Four showed up. Wednesday and the other private tour they skipped out on were “pay the day of” and they backed out. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I can tell you that if they ever showed up on another roll call I’m on I would run as fast as I could.

The AWOL couples aside, we had a FANTASTIC day with our Beautiful Meath driver, Martin. The trip was an excellent choice, and since there were only four of us (me, Jim, Bob, and Cathy) we had plenty of room to spread out!😂 We started with a drive out of Dublin through the Wicklow Mountains, where we saw the rolling hills of Ireland, Guinness Lake with its black water, and lots of wildlife.

You could tell how little rain they’ve had, because the views weren’t nearly as green as I expected. In fact, Martin said they had been having some trouble with wildfires in the gorse. Some tours had needed to be rerouted, but we were lucky and everything went as planned.

Our second stop was at Glendalough — probably my favorite stop of the day. Glendalough is the site of the remains of an early Medieval Monastic settlement in a beautiful valley. I really like old cemeteries, and this one was a great one!

Jim is trying to get his arms around the Wishing Cross. Alas, they aren’t nearly long enough!

Hunger was setting in by this time, so we went to our next stop, Avoca Weavers. In addition to the mill and gift shop, they have a small café with a selection of hot and cold sandwiches and salads. These cafe and food pictures are from the Avoca website:

The weaving facility originally started out as a cooperative for area farmers in the 1700s. They could grind their corn and spin and weave wool for clothing. Today, Avoca produces fine woven products, ceramics, and gourmet food in 12 locations in Ireland. Our tour through the weaving facility was very interesting, and of course we couldn’t resist a trip to the gift shop! The products were beautiful, but a lot of it was way too heavy for Houston. Cathy and I both chose brightly colored scarves with sheep on them, to remind us of all the sheep we saw driving through the Wicklow Mountains.

Our final stop of the day was at Powerscourt Estate. The gardens were beautifully laid out, and reminded me a little bit of Peterhof with the terraces and fountains. Unfortunately, you could really see the effects of the drought…the grass was brown! We strolled through the flowers but probably didn’t stay as long as we would have if the dry weather hadn’t had such an effect on the site.

Back at the ship, we got cleaned up and met Deedee and Chip at Crooners for some refreshments before dinner.

While we were sitting there lo and behold who walked by looking perfectly healthy but the sisters! They were all decked out in Flashy-Blinky 4th of July shirts, and appeared to be headed to the blow-out sale on Deck 7! I thought the most ridiculous thing was sister #1 saw me, pretended she hadn’t seen me, and then grabbed sister #2 and steered her away from the area where we were sitting. It was just like junior high! I hope they had fun at the junk sale and bought lots of worthless things with all the money they saved skipping out on the tour!🙄

We ate in the dining room again, and had a nice, relaxing meal. It was pretty late when we finished dinner, and I spent a little time in the casino before I called it a day. We had great plans for Belfast and the coast of Northern Ireland, but that also meant another early start to our touring day.

“Almost All” of Dublin on Foot 👣

We woke Tuesday in Dublin, opened the curtains, and were greeted with brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine…where have you heard that before?☀️ We were already docked, and not in a big hurry because we weren’t meeting our guide until 11:00. We had a leisurely breakfast on the balcony (great weather but an industrial port view), and I spent some time organizing things since we had four very full days before our first break in the action. We were ready to go with no rushing around, and we went down to Vines at 9:30 to meet our fellow Dublin sightseers.

We finally met the “Name Tag Sisters” and their husbands, since they had signed up to spend the day, the evening, and Dublin Day 2 with us. They presented us with our name tags, and I remember thinking they were pretty over the top considering they had to make (and pay for) more than 80 of them. I know if I had spent that kind of time and money I would have certainly moved Heaven and Earth to make sure I was at the Meet & Greet to distribute them. Something just didn’t seem quite right, but it was just a fleeting thought that would unfortunately make a lot more sense over the next few days of the trip.

I was excited about Dublin because of the tours I had booked, but more importantly I was excited because it was Dublin. What I discovered was that while there is still a rich history and pockets of the city ooze charm, many of Dublin’s old, historic structures have been replaced by modern buildings that make Dublin look a lot like many other cities. Our tours both days, however, were fantastic and more than made up for the experience in Cobh.

We piled into 2 taxis for the quick trip downtown, and had time to explore the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology while we waited for our 11:00 meeting time to start our tour.

I had booked a 5 hour “Almost All of Dublin” walking tour through Dublin Tour Guide (found on Trip Advisor). Our guide, Calbac MacSiacais, was prompt, and after introductions we explored the museum for a few more minutes while he made our reservation for the Book of Kells. Thankfully, Calbac goes by the English name of Carl Jackson, because I never did get the correct pronunciation of his Gaelic name! Carl explained the Irish alphabet only has 19 letters, so some letters combine to do double duty and make sounds of letters that don’t exist in then Gaelic alphabet! One common combination is “bh” which makes the “v” sound. Hence, Cobh is pronounced Cove and Siobhan is pronounced Shivon.

We started our tour with a walk to St. Stephen’s Green, where Carl gave us an overview of Ireland’s/Dublin’s history and briefly explained the things we were going to see.

It was there that I started to understand the strained relationship between England, Ireland, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Suffice it to say, some of my assumptions about the current relationships between the countries and Brexit were way off the mark. If I was going to describe the current atmosphere as a relationship status on Facebook I would choose “it’s complicated.” Actually, it’s beyond complicated, it’s emotional and gut-wrenching and as steeped in history and inexplicable events as race relations in the U.S.

Our first stop was at Trinity College and the Book of Kells. On the way we walked down Grafton Street past all the expensive designer stores and cart vendors, winding our way through the throngs of people and street performers. A quick stop for the story of Molly Malone, and we were on the grounds of Trinity College. We went directly to see the book of Kells, followed by the jewel in my day, the Trinity College Library.

The Book of Kells is a set of beautifully illustrated Latin books of the four gospels, meticulously hand written in inks of the times. Believed to date back to 800 A.D., the heavily ornamented pages are unlike most other scripts of the time. For centuries, the work was housed at the Abbey of Kells, but has been in the possession of Trinity College since at least 1661.

Today the manuscripts reside in a climate controlled case in the Trinity College Library. The manuscripts are fascinating, but the process for viewing them leaves something to be desired as it involves lots of pushing and shoving in tight quarters. Obviously, photography is forbidden, but pictures are easy to find on the internet. These came from Wikipedia. I did have an interesting conversation with one of the employees about the care of the book. The pages are turned every few months, and it is a lengthy, painstaking process. The display is closed to the public during the times the pages on display are changed.

Exiting the Book of Kells display, a marble staircase took us to heaven — I mean the Long Room of the Trinity College Library. Oh, how I would have loved to be there and wander through the stacks without all the tourists! As improbable as it seems given the age of the books, the lack of technology, and the number of tourists, this is a working library for the students at the college. Books cannot leave the premises, but they can be requested to be used in the reading areas of the library. I could have lost myself there for many hours!

Isn’t it spectacular? Here’s a picture from Wikipedia without all the people:

After we left the library, we walked around campus a little before we headed to lunch.

We ate in the most unlikely place — Kilkenny Department Store! I was skeptical, but upstairs there is a great café serving a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, quiches, soups, sausage rolls, and sweets. The servings were plentiful, it was fast, and there was something for everybody. In hindsight, it was a good choice because we needed to eat without spending too much time. These pictures are from the website:

After lunch we walked down to the Liffey River.

Along a stretch of the river known as the Dublin City Docklands is where you can find the Famine Memorial. The haunting figures represent the victims of a dark time in Irish history, the great potato famine when around 1 million people died of starvation and another million emigrated from Ireland in search of food.

I’m not going to go into detail here, but this was the first of several times we heard the term “genocide” used in relation to the famine and the massive loss of (mostly Catholic) lives. Suffice it to say there were a number of political, social, religious, and economic factors that contributed to the huge loss of life and helped shape Ireland as an independent country with only historical ties to England.

Docked in the river close to the memorial is the Jeanie Johnston, a tall ship that carried over 2,500 starving immigrants to North America during the famine. The statues at the memorial are placed so as to be making their way to the Jeanie Johnston. She is typical of the ships referred to as coffin ships due to the massive loss of life on board the immigrant transports, however no passengers ever died on a Jeanie Johnston crossing. That was a great feat attributable to the captain and ship’s doctor.

Our next stop was at a place not usually on tourists’ must-see lists…we visited St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral. Why St. Mary’s? Deedee’s Great-Great Grandmother was christened there, so we included it on our list of stops! I don’t think they get a lot of sight-seers, because the caretaker was very excited to have visitors, especially when he learned the reason! The first two church pictures are from Wikipedia:

From St. Mary’s we walked down O’Connell Street on our way towards the river and the Temple Bar area. There we saw the Spire of Dublin, a gigantic steel sculpture that doesn’t appear to depict anything. It’s in a kind of questionable neighborhood, and the locals have given it some questionable nicknames. The most common one is “The Stiffy by the Liffey,” but there are others…all referring to the shape of the sculpture! The picture of the “stiffy” is also from Wikipedia.

We crossed the river and walked slowly through the bustling, colorful Temple Bar area. I thought Temple Bar and the surrounding streets looked the most like the picture of Dublin I had in my head before the trip. The buildings were old, quirky, well-kept, and surrounded by beautiful flowers. It was an area I would have liked to spend more time exploring.

From Temple Bar we walked to Dublin Castle, and found a shaded spot in in the Dubh Linn Gardens where we chatted with Carl for a while about all things Ireland — education, sports, religion, history — you name it. Sadly, it was time for us to part company, and Carl rushed off to play in a soccer match while we squeezed in a few minutes at the Chester Beatty Library.

The Chester Beatty Library houses ancient manuscripts, biblical papyri, and very early copies of the New Testament as well as other important religious documents. It was another one of those places where I could have spent a lot of time, but unfortunately by the time we got in there they were preparing to close. It would definitely be on my list for a return visit.

We had a little time to kill before our dinner/show at the Brazen Head Pub, so we walked in that general direction and settled on Ned O’Shea’s Pub across from our dinner destination for a late aftenoon cocktail. It was while we were in Ned O’Shea’s that things started to get a little strange. I mentioned to the “Name Tag Sisters” what a shame it was they had spent so much time and money on name tags only to have them go to waste. They didn’t seem too bothered by the waste, but I suggested we set up a get together later in the cruise and they somewhat reluctantly agreed. I should also add that the “Name Tag Spouses” were even less enthusiastic about the idea than the sisters. In fact, neither of the husbands really had much to say the entire day. One of the husband’s parents immigrated from Cobh, and when I asked him about it he said he had never visited before and really never had any interest in doing so. I thought it was strange, but each to his own!

Before dinner Jim and I went on a walking tour of the neighborhood desperately in search of a drug store. My allergies had hit with a vengeance that morning and were getting worse by the hour. I felt fine, but I could barely talk and was starting to cough a lot. We finally found what we were looking for and met the rest of the group upstairs at the Brazen Head.

What a fun evening! We attended an event called an Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies. We were served traditional Irish food while Phillip shared stories and songs that have been passed down through the generations. The only thing I would have liked was a bit better air conditioning. It was hot for Dublin (upper 70s), and quite stuffy on the third floor of the old pub, especially while eating giant bowls of Guinness Stew!

While we were at the Brazen Head I got an urgent e-mail from Derek of Beautiful Meath Tours letting me know there was a problem with the air conditioning in our van for the next day. Apparently it was working in the front but not the back. Derek said they would load plenty of cold water on the van for us. We all talked about it (me, Jim, Cathy, Bob, and the Name Tag Sisters and their side-kicks) and decided we would be fine, and we could switch seats throughout the day to make sure everyone was comfortable. Keep in mind the forecast was for the high 70s. It might have been sweltering to the Irish, but to the Houstonians it felt great!

Little did I know that when we parted ways at the Brazen Head into taxis back to the ship that was the last time I would see the Name Tag Entourage (henceforth to be know as the Fab Four) except from a distance.😢😡😳

It didn’t take me long to fall asleep when we got back to the ship. It had been a wonderful but long day, and since we were meeting at 7:45 the next day I knew I needed my beauty sleep!

Up next — Happy Independence Day from the spectacular Irish countryside, a wonderful guide and day with Beautiful Meath Tours, and what NOT to do when you commit to a tour!