Enroute to Ireland

Bath Abbey

We’re sitting in the airport in Bristol, England waiting to board our flight to Ireland which we have just learned has been delayed by 4 hours.  I see this delay as a bit of a blessing as I’m feeling rather unprepared for our upcoming three week road trip in Ireland. I’d like to do more research to figure out a loose itinerary.  As of this moment, we don’t even know if we want to go north towards Belfast and travel the perimeter in a counter-clockwise direction, or if we should go south in the opposite direction. We haven’t booked anything other than a rental car so we are entirely flexible, which is probably a good thing since who knows when we’re going to get there today.  I’d love to hear from our Irish friends as well as others who have been to Ireland to get your suggestions of what you think we should see and do.

In the meantime, I can share with you what we’ve been up to during our last two weeks in England.  After both kids left for home, we spent one final week in Newark-on-Trent in our home base.  We didn’t do too much that final week, and nothing too interesting.  Mundane chores like cooking, laundry, housecleaning and gardening kept us occupied that week.  The car insurance had ended as well which kept us close to home.  The weather was still wet and cold most days, with just shorts periods of sunshine here and there. It has been one of the wettest summers on record in contrast to one of the hottest, driest summers back home in Canada.  But the Olympics had started and we took advantage of our down time to watch many events on TV.  At first we were a little annoyed by the partial coverage on the BBC…..”Team GB” as the UK team was known was watched closely whether they were coming in first or ninth.  Sometimes, we didn’t even see who had won because the camera was glued to the Team GB athlete coming in third.  But soon we found ourselves cheering for “Team GB”, especially since Canada was trailing so far behind in most events.

Next on our itinerary was a visit to another cousin (Lulu) who lives with her family close to Windsor, about 45 minutes west of London by train, and my Aunt Maureen (Lulu’s mom) who lives in Windsor.  I had met Lulu back in 2004 when I visited England with my mom and dad and youngest brother, Jim.  The 2004 trip was a week-long tour of England visiting all my relatives on my dad’s side, followed by a week-long tour of Germany, visiting all my relatives on my mom’s side.  When I met Lulu back then, we hit it off right away, so I was really looking forward to seeing her again.

In preparing for our visit, Lulu had mentioned they were just finishing up a long renovation on their 16th century manor house.  And what a renovation it was!  The addition on the back of the house is nothing short of stunning, yet the front of the house retains all the charm and period features of the original house.  They have achieved a perfect blend of old and new.  Both Chris and I were inspired by what they have done, and I could see Chris chomping at the bit for a new project to sink his teeth into.

We were warmly welcomed by Lulu’s family – husband Sean, teenaged daughters Scarlet and Octavia and their son, Columbus who is ten, and their sweet cat, Spartacus.  We also had the chance to visit with Lulu’s older brothers: Mike and his wife Sara, and John and his partner Charlotte and her two children.  I had met both of my cousins (Mike and John) in 2004 and it was great to see them again.

Michael (left), Shawn (right), Sarah (left), Lulu (middle) and me on the right.

During our visit, we spent a few hours in Windsor, home to Windsor Castle, the primary residence of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillips. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit the Castle, something we hope to do when we return to England after our Ireland tour.  I had plenty of time to chat with my Aunt Maureen and I was happy to listen to her stories about both her childhood as well as Lulu’s.  My aunt is almost 80, yet she is so spry and energetic and sharp as a tack.  She has been following our travels through our blog and often sends me emails to share with me her thoughts about our travels as well as her own travel experiences.  I think she is one of our biggest fans, and I am definitely one of hers.

Aunt Maureen and I in front of my cousin Lulu’s house.

Throughout the weekend, we talked a lot about our travels (hopefully not too much!)  Everyone had so many questions. Columbus, in particular, seemed quite interested in the faraway places we have been, the things we have done and the exotic animals we have seen.  I was really impressed with all the children – they were so polite, well-mannered, and good conversationalists.  Columbus was simply adorable and I’m sure he would have jumped into Chris’ backpack to join us on an adventure if he could have.

Our weekend at Lulu’s passed far too quickly, in fact, we even delayed our departure by a few hours because it just felt too rushed.  We are planning to return for a few days at the end of the month.

Our final stop was Bath, where we spent a couple of days exploring this city renowned for the ancient Roman baths in the centre of town.  We visited the Roman Baths during the evening when there weren’t many crowds.  As the evening light faded, and the soft torch light illuminated the main bath, the atmosphere was magical.  We joined the last guided tour of the evening and were amazed at the history of the baths that date back to pre-Roman times.  The next day, we joined a walking tour and learned the colorful history of Bath through to the Victorian Ages.  Later that day, we spent a few hours relaxing in the thermal spring waters of the municipally run Thermae Spring Spa.  It was wonderfully relaxing.

On our last morning we toured the Bath Abbey, the third such church that has been built on the same site over the course of history.  It is a bright, beautiful church with many gorgeous stained glass windows.  What I enjoyed the most, however, was reading the inscriptions on the memorial stones that adorned one wall of the Abbey.  Many of the writings dated back to the 1600’s and were written in a form of English (vocabulary and spelling) that was slightly different from modern day English (for instance “f” was used in place of “s”).  The often endearing and descriptive expressions themselves offered such a lovely tribute to the deceased. It was so much nicer than the usual name, date of birth, and date of death which is so common on most headstones.

And so here we are still waiting for our plane….we have just learned it has been delayed for yet another 2 hours.  Who knows, we may not be going anywhere tonight!  Next up, our adventures in Ireland.

Travel Tip:  If you travel by train to Bath, check out the current 2 for 1 promotions offered by the First Great Western train line.  You need to complete an online voucher, print it and present it when purchasing your entrance ticket.  Note that some establishments don’t even require you to show your train ticket so even if you didn’t travel by train, you may be able to use the voucher, not that I’m recommending you do that.

Travel Tip:  If travelling by train in the UK, purchase your tickets as far in advance as possible as prices will vary tremendously.  For instance, Lynne and Colin purchased 2 return tickets to York for us as a gift.  The price difference between those tickets and the ones we purchased for the kids at the last minute was 25 pounds each way!  So it pays to buy early.

Category: England, Europe, Ireland
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3 Responses
  1. Hi Chris and Christina, we are back in Ireland since early July having completed the Camino in 31 days. Busy as ever. Weather has been terrible but is somewhat better at present. Clowdy, but dry and warm. Should you happen to be in the west, in the Galway area, make sure to let us know. We hope to meet again.
    Noel P and Ronnie

    • christina says:

      Hi Noel and Ronnie
      We’ve decided to head north and travel counter clockwise – no rhyme or reason for that decision. Just arrived in Belfast this evening and will spend a couple of days here before we continue north along the coast. We expect to reach your area sometime later next week. We don’t have anything planned so we can’t say for sure exactly when we’ll be in your neck of the woods. We’ll give you a heads up a couple of days in advance – hopefully we’ll be able to get together for a pint or two.
      Looking forward to hearing all about the rest of your Camino.
      Chris and Chris

  2. Paul says:

    Hi Chris & Christine, I hope you made it to the green isle, don’t forget to give us a call if you ever make it towards the northern half. I sent a reply to your email with my contact phone number, did you receive it? if not just email me.
    I hope you make it to Belfast and I’m sure that we may be able to find somewhere that might sell intoxicating liquid, not that we ever touch the stuff!!!, but in the name of science and for medicinal purposes only, we’ll try it.
    I hope the weather picks up for you as well, just remember your wet gear!!!!


    Paul and Beth