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Trip Report Bankbabe's First Trip Across the Pond - Scotland and Ireland 2013 - Long...

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We had a wonderful time in Scotland and Ireland 8/26/2013 – 9/4/2013. We did a lot in a short time period. Some would say we missed the better parts of Ireland, but it suited us just fine to get away. Here goes:
Day One: Left Sunday evening 8/26 at 7:00 pm, Envoy class because it is an 8 hour flight and my DH is a big guy. Wow – I have never been able to sleep on a plane, but I sure did! We had champagne as soon as we boarded (before takeoff). The former governor from our state was in the row in front of us, which was kind of exciting..., but I digress. Our seats went all the way back and I felt like I was almost in an egg. Well, anyway, flight takes off without a hitch. We had a nice dinner of spinach salad, beef tenderloin, rolls, key lime pie, more champagne, a little wine, a little TV and off to sleep. I awoke only 10 minutes before landing at Heathrow. I recall getting my photo snapped not once, but twice by Customs. (huh?) On to a connecting flight to Edinburgh, (we sat in last row) and were in Scotland by 11:40 am local time. No problem getting our luggage, golf clubs, and finding a cab to the Balmoral Hotel in the heart of Edinburgh. Since it was 12:30ish, our room was not ready yet. We left our bags at the hotel and took a walk. It was a beautiful sunny but chilly day (compared to home), and we stopped in an Italian bistro, which I later concluded was a chain restaurant, called Bella Italia and ordered a duck pizza. Good, but interesting! Off to meander more around the neighborhood. There was a lot of beautiful architecture, old buildings, bustling atmosphere, etc. We stopped in a small shop and I bought our DGD a red plaid dress for Christmas. Sweet! We went back to the hotel and checked into our room. Front desk had upgraded us and we had a lovely view of the city, beautiful room with antique furniture, a couple rounded bay windows, with a table & chairs looking out onto the street and Waverly train station. Great! We changed into our bathing suits and headed to the spa/ pool. Got in some much needed exercise, sauna, steam room, and headed back upstairs to take a nap. A couple hours later we went down to the bar at Balmoral and had a couple cocktails. I had champagne (again) but this time it was served with a rose petal in it. The bartender was really something to watch. He knew his stuff. Off we went back to the streets and walked around – we checked out the train station so we could find out how to get tickets for the next day’s ride to St. Andrews. I also tried to get tickets to a show as it was the last night of the Fringe Festival. The show I wanted to see was sold out, and it didn’t start until 10:15pm. Since it was our first day and we were a bit tired, we just decided to bag it, walked to a pub and had a couple beers, a chicken sandwich and back to our hotel to bed.

Day Two: We woke to a room service knocking on the door with our breakfast. OMG – DH had something I have never seen before and cannot imagine eating myself, but he loved it - Black pudding and Haddies (sp?) along with his eggs. I chose a Belgian waffle with berries. The coffee was a bit different, but overall we were still in heaven and on a trip “high”. LOL!! After breakfast we quickly got dressed and headed off the Edinburgh Castle. The waiting line was about 30 minutes, so not too bad! I bought an umbrella thinking it might rain and had left mine at the hotel. Wow- the castle was awesome! Almost like a little city in itself. We toured the Castle for about 2 hours, took lots of pictures, had a sampling of scotch, and bought some scarves. Overall great day – but we had a train to catch as our reservations awaited us at the Old Course. We went back to hotel, packed up, got all our bags, and walked to the train station right next door. I got a couple ham/cheese sandwiches to eat on the train at some place called The Upper Crust. We boarded the train and had a very nice ride – loved the pretty scenery, houses, goats, cows, etc… We arrived in Luechers and grabbed a cab to the Old Course Hotel. Wow! More champagne!!!  We checked into our room and DH immediately got on the phone to the golf concierge to secure a tee time on the Old Course. We quickly found out the hotel could not make any promises and told us to go check it out at the Starter’s box. So, off we went. It was so surreal being at the Old Course having seen it so often on TV. I did not see any famous golfers though. Anyway, DH found out he just had to get up super early to talk to the starter about a tee time. We walked around the 18th fairway, looked out over the beach, walked a bit into town and then back to the Jigger Inn to catch some golfers come up upon the 17th fairway. We ate at the Sands Grill that night for dinner. I had salmon and a salad – wonderful. Can’t recall what DH had.

Day Three: Alarm rings at 4:00 am for DH to go get in line to play the Old Course. Good heavens - what can I say? A bucket list thing… DH got down there with his clubs. There were 5 or 6 other guys waiting in line. Some without their clubs (and they could not be guaranteed anything). The starter arrives at 6:00 am and DH was able to tee off at 6:30am. I slept in, and then enjoyed a heavenly facial at the Old Course Spa. OMG – wonderful. I especially liked the Relaxation room at the end of my treatment. I eventually caught up with DH and we had lunch at the Jigger Inn – I had French Onion Soup and salad, he had the fish & chips. We met a great waitress there named Esther. I loved hearing all the Scottish accents. I went to the Ladies Pro shop and spoke with Rona, who helped me look up a cousin who lived in Dundee. I was able to get the number and left her a message, but she never returned my call….oh well. By late afternoon, DH and I ventured off to the town of St. Andrews and found our way to the Gray brier Inn, had a couple drinks, and scoped out places to eat dinner. We ended up at the Ogstons (on North Street) that night, and found the food was very good and reasonably priced. On the way back to the hotel, we took pictures of the Clubhouse all lit up at night, and walked over the famous “bridge”

Day Four: We slept in and took our time. I think we had room service breakfast, but not sure what it was. We got dressed and walked into town again. This was my day to shop. I bought some cashmere sweaters for me and our DDs. We went to a little museum/English garden near the University. . We walked through the University a little, and saw the coffee shop in town “Where Kate Met Wills”… LOL. So cute! Lots of nice bakeries, I bought a lovely lavender soft leather wallet at Pretty Things, as I have needed a new wallet for years and I am so picky…. Our camera battery died, and I was sad that there are no camera shops in St. Andrews. People say the old camera shop they had closed down due to the economy…So, after that, we only had our phones to take pictures. Anyway just more walking and shopping till we dropped. DH got a long sleeve golf shirt with St. Andrews logo. Went back to the Jigger Inn at the Old Course Hotel, had a cup of tea. Esther gave DH a scotch and we watched golfers come in on the 17th fairway. We met some other couples from Las Vegas and Atlanta. A bird came up to our table and wanted some of my shortbread. LOL… So fun! That night we ate dinner at The Adamson Restaurant which come to find out the lady we talked to that afternoon owns the restaurant. She was very nice (named Marjorie) and introduced us to her husband and son. We had a lovely dinner of beef tenderloin, but it was different beef from what I was used to. Still good!

Day Five: We had to leave the Old Course Hotel and head back to the train to Edinburgh, back to the airport for our flight to Shannon. We ate lunch in the airport. DH had a cheeseburger, I had pasta. Good, but nothing to write home about. During lunch we found out our flight to Shannon was 2 hours delayed. Oh well… We spent more time at the airport than we wanted to, but arrived via Air Lingus to Shannon around 7:45pm. There was a couple sitting next to us on the plane that were elderly and from New Zealand. They biked 90 miles in Scotland and planned to do the same in Ireland. Wow… I was impressed! ;) So, off to the Avis rental car desk at Shannon. I was nervous after reading other posts about Avis. We did have to buy more insurance, because American Express didn’t insure in Ireland. DH took care of that while I went to the money exchange desk… We had an Audi 6000 which was nice. We wanted automatic drive as neither of us had driven on left hand side of the road since Turks & Caicos in 2004…. Well, let’s just say that the trip became a little stressful at this point. The sun went down as we were heading to Limerick, and of course we got lost looking for the Absolute Hotel. Our I-phone kept telling us to look for streets and roundabouts but I could not see any street signs. I swear it was so frustrating. We ended up in a neighborhood and there were a couple gals talking outside by their car, and a crying baby in back seat, but I got out and asked them directions. Again more lovely Irish brogues and they were so friendly! Told us right where to go. Once we found the hotel, we went around the block trying to find the “car park” We checked in to find no room service, but of course the bar was open. We spent an hour or two in the bar and met some more people, went back to our room and the front desk sent up a couple sandwiches for us at 11pm… Yummy! We were exhausted after being in cabs, trains, planes and automobiles, so off to sleep we went.

Day Six: We woke up and got out of Limerick because that was our intent all along and we found driving around Limerick confusing. It looked like a nice enough city, but there were other things we wanted to see in Ireland. So, we headed south towards Cork. We saw lots of B & B’s on the way, beautiful country side, etc. It was a perfect day. DH was becoming a pro at driving on the Left hand side of the road. We drove through many towns and roundabouts. I saw a funny sign on a building that said: “Have you Sh*t Today?” LOL. We stopped in a little store and got some fruit and of course I had some Walker’s Shortbread cookies from the airport. I love those things. By early afternoon we stopped in Blarney and toured the Blarney Castle, kissed the Stone, walked through the gardens etc. The Blarney House was closed, but it sure looked nice. There was a wedding party taking pictures on the grounds. We stayed for a little over an hour and then hit the gift shop, bought some post cards. Of course we bought our pictures of us kissing the Stone. We were back in the car and drove through Cork – which looked like a great town, but our plan was to stay in Castlemartyr. We kept driving and were in Castlemartyr by 4:30ish. OMG – I thought I had died and gone to heaven. What a beautiful place. It was almost like walking into an Irish Great Gatsby party. There was another wedding going on and everyone looked SO BEAUTIFUL. Bagpipes were playing. The place was to die for.
So, here we were in our casual clothes, (which was fine). Everyone was so friendly. The check in people were so nice. Windows were open behind the front desk and I saw the horses prancing around in the field outside. I am pinching myself at this point… After we got our key, we were escorted to the Knight’s Bar (ceilings must have been 45 feet tall and so ornate) and given glasses of champagne. We watched the wedding party outside. We drank our drinks and then made our way up to the room (a junior suite). Well, this is where we splurged. As many of you know, I am a hotel snob, and this was by far the fanciest room I have ever stayed in. Beautiful Waterford Chandeliers in the front entrance, bathroom, etc. An awesome closet, marble bathroom, pretty linens, 2 sets of double doors and balconies looking over the golf course. Just wonderful. We made a reservation for dinner in the Bell Tower, showered and changed into nice clothes. When we got there, we had the room to ourselves and sat at a table next to an open window looking out over the gardens. Dinner was wonderful. I had Roy Kingston’s Fillet of “Irish Hereford” Beef, Potato Terrine, Spinach & Garlic Puree, slow cooked Turnip, Beef Cheek Beignet & Red Wine Jus. DH had Slaney Valley Roast Rump of Lamb, Slow Cooked Belly, Baby Artichokes, Garden Chard, Olive Jus Gras. A nice bottle of wine, and then we walked back to Knight’s Bar for a night cap and headed upstairs. I forgot to mention that many guests at the wedding were wearing fascinator hats. What fun!!! 

Day Seven: The next morning we slept in too late to go to church, which I wanted to do in Ireland because it was Sunday. Oh well, more to come on that later… We ordered room service for breakfast. I had eggs benedict and DH had eggs with some black & white pudding and haddies. They also brought croissants, fruit, and coffee. After getting dressed I made an appointment for a massage and they only had one appointment available at 5:15. DH told me to go ahead and take it. OK, twist my arm…. We played golf at the golf course right there, and though I am not a player, I tagged along and did take a couple shots. It was very peaceful and fun. I might take up this golf thing when I retire…. DH called me his caddy for the day. After golf, it was almost time for my massage. I went down to the spa and DH enjoyed the pool and water therapy room – whirlpool, steam room and sauna. By then we wanted to venture off the resort and head into town for dinner, but the front door man told us most places in town were closed on Sundays. So, we had dinner at Francinni’s at the resort, which was more casual. I had crispy chicken and DH had ravioli. Back to the Knights Bar for a sampling of Whiskey and then up to bed.

Day Eight: Oh do we HAVE to leave Castlemartyr??? Yep – Only stayed there two nights because it was Monday morning and we had flights back to Dublin on Wednesday morning. I took some pictures of the grounds and the horses and we packed up the car and headed north. We drive through Waterford and up M5 (?) to Dublin and made it in 3.5 hours. Honestly the roads are a lot better than what I expected. Friends at home told us the roads were bad, but the locals say how much they have improved in the last 5 -7 years. Once in Dublin, it got a little hairy trying to find the airport, but our I-phone saved us and we made it to the rental car place in time. Neither one of us wanted to drive around Dublin. So we just took a cab to our hotel – Jury’s Inn in Christchurch. This was fine and a great location. Nothing near as nice as the other places we stayed, but perfect for the last couple nights. The room was very small and had no air conditioning, so we kept the windows open and our room looked out over the Christchurch. The noise made it difficult to sleep. Therefore we had to spend a lot of time in the pubs of Temple Bar area before we went to bed. LOL. We had dinner at Farrington’s Pub and it was the BEST steak and mushroom pie accompanied by mashed potatoes and gravy. Yummy! We stopped at a couple other places after hitting an ATM and then made our way back to Jury’s Inn. Sleep was possible despite the smaller bed and noisy city outside.

Day Nine: We woke up, got dressed and headed outside the Jury’s Inn. We hopped a cab to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There we toured and looked at many statues and historical items. We saw a chair from 1690 that King William sat in, a Reconciliation door, of course the statue of St. Patrick, lots of tombs, and I lit a candle for my mom and sister who are not feeling well. I sat for a while in the meditation chapel. It was beautiful. After that we stopped at the Cathedral Café across the street, which was very quaint and had lots of books sitting about. I had a breakfast sandwich and tea. DH had coffee and a full breakfast. We left and walked up the street in search of the Guinness factory. Once there, we decided to tour Jameson Distillery instead – I know I know- we sort of had no hard “plans” so to speak, but I got my picture outside the Guinness So, we rode a horse and carriage and over to Bow Street. The tour was nice and lasted an hour with a whiskey sample at the end. Triple distilled – DH bought a couple bottles (reserve) that can only be bought in Dublin. We took a taxi back to the room and refreshed while I searched for shopping info about Waterford. Soon we were off to the shopping district near Trinity College. We stopped in the Kilkenny shop and I met John Rocha who used to work for Waterford. I bought a couple candlesticks, a wedding gift (Waterford vase), some Balleek as Christmas gifts, Irish linen napkins, and had them shipped home. Had to take a pub break, then more shopping – sweaters for Christmas presents… Then another pub where we ate a dinner – I had fish & chips, DH had Shepherd’s Pie. Yum! We headed back to the Jury’s Inn to pack our bags. Once packed, we went downstairs and had an Irish coffee to celebrate (or mourn?) the end of our trip.

Day Ten: Woke up at 6:00 am and headed to the airport. The airport had signs asking for referrals to bring business to Ireland. I have to say, all the cab drivers and people we met were so personable. Things I note: Coffee is not too good, Washcloths are not there even in the best hotels, Ladies rooms are referred to as “toilets”, and Parking garages are called “Car Park”. The scenery is beautiful, liquor is plenty, the streets are clean, and taxes are high for the locals. Oh, and it was interesting to hear all the talk about US politicians while visiting another country, especially when Parliament voted down the Syria issue….

I would love to go back again one day!

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