Monday, July 6, 2020

UK and Ireland Recap--2013

I'm going to do a series of recaps--I really like how easy they make it to look back on my two week European trips.  My very first trip abroad was to the UK and Ireland--a trip that had been a dream trip of mine.  We went on the 10 day essential Britain and Ireland.

(this is the only map I could find--we did not stop at Kilkenny--we stopped at Avoca and Glendalough)

We added a couple of days before and after the Globus trip we choose to spend time on our own in London.

1.  A Journey to Kensington Gardens, London

We arrived in  London, and after a quick trip on the Heathrow Express (followed by a short walk) we were at our hotel.  We headed out to Kensington Palace, where we had afternoon tea in the Orangery before touring the Palace.

2.  Westminster

A morning visit to Westminster Abbey followed by a walk up to Trafalgar Square.

3.  Walking through "The City"

We took the Tube to St. Paul's Cathedral then walked up to see the Tower of London before taking the Tube back to our hotel to meet up with our Globus tour group for dinner followed by a cruise on the Thames.

4.  Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath

We started with a visit to Stonehenge before visiting Salisbury Cathedral on our way to Bath where we had time to see the Roman Bath before crossing over to spend the night to Wales.

5.  Cardiff, Wales to Waterford, Ireland

We woke in Cardiff and, a short bus ride later, we were at Carlisle Castle for a tour, before heading to our ferry to Waterford.

6.  A Day in Ireland

We started our first full day in Ireland with a visit to the Waterford factory then boarded the bus to travel to the Avoca Mill to see how a hand-weaving mill works before heading to Glendalough to see Monastic ruins.  That night we arrived in Dublin.

7.  Dublin to Belfast, North Ireland

We wandered around Dublin, including seeing the Book of Kells at Trinity College.  The next day was mostly a travel day, with a very brief stop in Belfast with just enough time for a (very fast walk to see a few sights) before driving on to ferry to Scotland.

8.  Fancy China and Edinburgh

We visited Edinburgh Castle before walking down the Royal Mile, stopping in St. Giles Cathedral before heading down to Holyroodhouse Palace.

9.  Walking in the Shambles

We crossed over from Scotland to York, where we wandered up to York Minster.

10.  Tea in Stratford-upon-Avon then back to London 

Our last stop started with Shakespeare--the tour took us to see Anne Hathaway's cottage in Shottery (Anne Hathaway is Shakespeare's wife), then a visit to Stratford-upon Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace, with a stop for tea.  Next we traveled back to London and said goodbye to the group before dashing to the British Museum and ending the evening with a ride in the Eye of London.

11.  Hampton Court Palace

We started the day wandering through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard.  Next an easy (and quick!) train ride to Hampton Court Palace (in the borough of Richmond), a former palace of Henry VIII.

12.  Highgate to Windsor

We started the morning taking the Tube to beautifully overgrown 19th century Highgate Cemetery, then a train to Windsor with just enough time to see the castle.

Review:  This Globus trip is definitely just an overview and two days were spent primarily traveling (the two ferry days).  But really, I don't regret choosing this trip just to get a taste.  I know that I'll get back at some point to see each country more in depth.  I definitely recommend adding time in London.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Amsterdam & Belgium Trip Recap

I really liked having a summary of the Italy trip, so I thought I would go ahead and do a summary of my 2019 trip to Amsterdam & Belgium.  I had always planned to someday go to the Netherlands (and see tulips!), but hadn't really thought about Belgium, more so because there is just so much to see in Europe!  I'm so glad Katherine suggested we do both on this trip--I ended up enjoying Belgium more!  Bruges especially.  So here was our whole itinerary. 

1.  To Amsterdam in Style

We arrived (in business class!) to Amsterdam and had an afternoon to do some sightseeing, going through a bit of the Red Light District (including seeing a hidden church) before heading to find some dinner.

2.  Museums & Tea

A somewhat crazy day with visits to four museums: the Van Gogh museum, Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk museum, and a special visit to the Museum of Bags and Purses for afternoon tea overlooking a canal.

3.  Keukenhof & Leiden

We started the morning in the gardens of Keukenhof with its multi-colored tulips (and more) and then afternoon in Leiden, a pretty university town and the childhood home of Rembrandt.  That night, a canal cruise to watch the sunset.

4.  Edam, Volendam, and Marken

A trip out into North Holland to see Edam (of cheese fame!), Volendam (a seaside resort town), and Marken (a former island that has kept many of its older traditions as a seafaring town).

5.  Amsterdam City Walk

Today we followed Rick Steves' walk beginning at the train station and then down through Dam's square, all the way down to Leidseplein (with a quick stop in the serene Bergenhof).  From there, we took the tram back to the Museumplein for the Moco Museum (a modern art museum). 

6.  To Delft & The Hague

We started the day in pretty Delft with its market, stopped at a delftware factory, and continued to The Hague, where we saw the Girl with the Pearl Earring.

7.  Haarlem, a canal mansion, and Amsterdam's Jordaan neighborhood

A morning spent in Haarlem brought us back to Amsterdam with a bit of extra time before our late evening event.  We went in a canal mansion on Amsterdam before heading over to see the Jordaan neighborhood.  Our last event for Amsterdam had us visiting the Anne Frank House.

8.  Antwerp on King's Day

We were in Amsterdam for the big King's Day party, but spent most of the day in Belgium seeing Antwerp.  We saw a rich merchant's home and the printing press he owned, as well as Ruben's House.

9.  To Bruges

On this day we took a bus to Bruges, and checked in to our adorable hotel.  After a visit to a couple of Flemish art museums (including one in a former medieval hospital) we wandered down to the Minnewater with its swans, and took a quick look in the Bergenhof. 

10.  Exploring Bruges

A walking tour of Bruges, including going up to the tower for views, a walk out to the windmills, and in the Town Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood.  A few stops for chocolate too of course!

11.  In Flanders Fields

We joined a mini-bus tour of different WWI graveyards and battle sites, including a stop in Ypres to see the Menin Gate, memorial to those who died but whose burial sites are not known.

12.  Brugge to Bruxelles

A relaxing morning canal cruise in Bruges, followed by a move to Brussels and afternoon sightseeing in Brussel's lower and upper towns, including the beautiful Grand Place.

13.  Art & Leuven

A morning visit to the Royal Museums of Fine Art followed by a short train ride to Leuven for a bit of sighseeing, including its Gothic Town Hall and town within a town Bergenhof.

14.  Ghent

A visit to Ghent following Rick Steves' walking tour going in Cathedrals, down a street full of graffiti, and even a 12th century castle!


We had upgraded through an auction on the flight to Amsterdam via Icelandair to business class and loved it.  We decided while we were in Belgium we'd try to upgrade the return trip and "won" again!  It was worth it.  

We even talked our way into the premium class lounge (even though we were on economy to Iceland and on business class only for the longer flight).  One last Belgium waffle and Kierk.

Then we were in our nice upgraded seats again.

Snacks with a bottle of prosecco.  

Our fancy menu and meal on a real plate.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Day 14--Ghent

We've reached our last day in Belgium.  Because the day before had been so rainy, we had decided to switch our plans and do the day trip to Ghent on the last day when the weather was nicer (although still pretty overcast sadly).  A quick 40 minute train ride, and we were in Ghent.


At the train station we caught tram #1, which took us up near the Korenmarkt.

We went up to St. Michael's Bridge next,

We started Rick Steves' walk, walking by the Mason's Guild House,

then going up the Belfry (there was an elevator) for views.

Behind the Belfry, there was Sint-Baafsplein,

then on to St. Bavos.

Back on the walk,

which continued up through Graffitistraat,

then up through Vrijdagmarkt

(with a side trip up Baudelostraat to see some houses with extra pretty gables).

Up across the Leie River,

then along the river,

until we reached the Castle of the Counts.  This castle, built in 1180, was built to intimidate the locals.

We went in and walked along the walls for a bit.

(the chapel)

Pretty views down into town.

We looked down into our next stop, Sint-Veerleplein, with its fancy entrance to the Oude Vismijn (Old Fishmarket).

Next down to the square, with a stop for a Castle-side lunch.

We ended the big circle we were making by heading through Groetenmarkt Square,

(long Butcher's Hall)

then then back down along the river.

Next we crossed over the St. Michael's Bridge (same bridge from earlier this morning)

and went down to the other bank of the river,

before heading back to the Korenmarkt, our very first stop, is anchored by St. Nicholas.  

It had been closed earlier, but we were able to take a look inside before leaving.

(Some local art on display)


A quick train ride, and back to Brussels.  Just a bit about the station.  On our second to last day, after the Louvain trip, we discovered a "secret entrance" very close to our hotel behind a smurf statue.  We were quite proud of ourselves for discovering it, and it make today's day trip extra easy.

We came out onto Agora Square, right near the hotel


We decided we just had to get one last Belgium waffle (when in Belgium!) so headed out to a popular place recommended by Rick Steves, Maison Dandoy.

(yes, that was the line to enter)

(We tried the Brussel's style waffle, lighter than the liege waffle with its rounded edges and extra sugar)

Of course, the Maison Dandoy wasn't far from the Grand Place (sigh).

We had dinner again on this square (surprise, surprise since I loved it so and it was so close to the hotel).  This time we ate in a cellar!

(Waterzooi, a creamy soup with chicken popular in Ghent--I figure appropriate for today)

(Yes, that is our waiter judging us.)

The square this night was my favorite off all our days here.

(Panorama taken with cell phone--I was pretty impressed!  I'm pretty sure Katherine had to help me figure out how to do it)

So pretty!