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France, Ireland and England on the teen “fast track” – trip report

France, Ireland and England on the teen “fast track” – trip report

Sep 28th, 2007, 09:41 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 159
June 24 –
After an early morning farewell to my sister and brother-in-law (they were headed out to catch a boat to see Skellig Michael) we began our trip back to Dublin. We knew that we wanted to return our rental car and get back to our hotel in time for dinner, so we were very selective about our stops along the way.

That being said, as I alluded to in an earlier post, my sons were on a quest to pick up some small souvenirs, specifically those coasters with our family crest on them that one son had purchased while waiting for the Tarbert-Kilmer ferry. We had been making a point to stop at the gift shops at every sight and town where we stopped (although I have spared mention of this until now). I was certain that the same touristy types of gifts would be everywhere, but as I noted in lesson #11 many shops later I discovered that I was very wrong. Today being our last day in Ireland the press was on. Of course they made a point to remind me periodically that I had assured them that they would find them in some other shop. When will I learn not to make these kinds of “promises”.

Our route that day was to follow the N72 from Killorglin through Killarney to Mallow. We made a quick stop in Mallow at the Tesco to pick up water, soft drinks, snacks, fruit and gum (cost 27 euros) and then took the N73 connecting with the N8 towards Cahir. All of the driving today was fairly easy.

Aside from the aforementioned gift shop stops, our main stop in Cahir was to see the Cahir Castle (cost 7.50 euros for a family). This was yet another one of those wonderful tips from the Fodor’s forum members. My sons and oldest boy (husband) absolutely loved this castle. They explored and climbed every inch of the castle – periodically stopping to fill my mother and me in on some of their exploits. My Mom and I caught some of a very well done guided tour. The guide was a wealth of information – I would recommend the tour. Lesson #13 on the teen fast track – the knowledge that my sons posses never ceases to amaze me. As I mentioned earlier in the report, all of my sons are history buffs and apparently they have learned quite a bit about castles over the years. As I tried to share fascinating facts that the guide had shared with them, I discovered that they already knew why the castle was set up the way it was, what each area was used for, and what all the parts of the castle were called. Who knew! I actually got a good chuckle towards the end of our visit, when a family entered the castle with their two or three preschool aged boys. Almost instantly one of the boys had escaped the mother’s sight range. Much to his mother’s horror, his aunt found him climbing up the stairs to the outer wall of the castle. She has no idea how much climbing will be done in years to come. I think that this may be my sons’ favorite castle that we visited partly because it was the first one they have ever visited, but also because of the amazing condition of the castle and the freedom that they had to climb to their hearts content.

Next we made the short drive to Cashel. We decided to eat lunch first and discovered that Sunday noon was a very popular time to enjoy a lunch out at a restaurant. After a short wait, we were seated at the Lady’s Well Restaurant, just a short distance away from the Rock of Cashel. Although I remember that lunch was fine, no specifics stand out in my mind (cost $98.86 or 71.95 euros).

After lunch we headed over to see the Rock of Cashel and the on again off again rain that had really been a part of our whole trip was on again. My mother has seen the Rock of Cashel (cost 11.50 euros), so she decided to stay in the van while the rest of us went on. I have to say that although this sight is intriguing, it just didn’t capture us the way Cahir Castle and some of the other sights from the last two days had. I know that the rain wasn’t helping either. We made a relatively quick loop through and headed back down the hill to the van. At the base of the rock was yet another gift shop. Although the boys could not find the coasters that they were looking for, they did find a few other items that they decided were pretty cool. Whew – I could finally stop looking for gift shops to stop in. .

The drive back to Dublin was no problem. We turned in the car and were told that the appraisers would look at it the next morning and they would get back to us (FYI – they never did send us any paperwork. They just billed us for the repairs. We had to get the repair report via Auto Europe with whom we had made the reservation). For what its worth, the Europcar office at the Dublin airport was very efficient for the pick-up and drop-off process.

A quick free ride on the shuttle back to the same Holiday Inn Express (we had stayed there our first night in Ireland) and we were all settled in to the hotel. Since our flight to Gatwick was at 8:00 am the next morning, we decided to have an easy low key evening. We ate dinner at the bar restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Hotel - sister property right next door to our hotel (cost $102.98 or 75.95 euros). The food and service were actually quite good. Our meal was basic burgers, salads, sandwiches….

Tomorrow – England! The beginning of the last leg of our trip.
Momof3sons is offline  
Sep 28th, 2007, 11:19 AM
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Excellent, mom! Some great information here. I'm looking forward to England, so don't give up now!
LCBoniti is offline  
Sep 28th, 2007, 11:34 AM
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LC -

Thanks for the continued encouragement. I have really appreciated the many encouraging comments people have left me.

I know that I've had big gaps in between installments, so I appreciate your messages even more.

I received so much helpful information from the posters here, that I wanted to make sure and "give back". Writing this has been very fruitful for me (even if it has highlighted my failing memory ). I just hope that someone else is helped by this information and/or that someone enjoys "seeing" this part of the world through my family's eyes.

Well - gotta go now - off to two soccer games.

I'm hoping to finish at least a few more days this weekend.
Momof3sons is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 09:55 AM
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June 25 –
We were up and out bright and early, caught a quick breakfast at the free continental breakfast at the hotel, and grabbed the free shuttle back to the airport. Our Ryan Air flight was scheduled to depart at 8:00am and as I recall, it left just about on time (cost $247.07 or 178.08 euros for six tickets). After an uneventful flight, we arrived at Gatwick airport at about 9:30 am as planned.

Once at Gatwick, we made a quick stop at the ATM to get some pounds and then picked up our car at the Europcar desk. This time, we chose a smaller 7 passenger van (cost $546.50). We knew that we would not be spending lots of time in the car with our luggage on this trip, so we felt we could make do with the smaller van. Each one of the six of us had a 22” wheeled carryon bag. In addition, my mom had smaller wheeled carryon bag and the rest of us had small day bags for books, jackets, etc. Using one of the passenger seats for luggage, we managed to get everything and everyone in. If anyone travels with more luggage, there is no way that a party of six could manage with one of the 7 passenger vans.

From Gatwick, we followed the M23 to the M25, joined up branched off onto the M3 over towards Salisbury. I do know that it was around 11:00 am by the time we headed out on our drive, and at that time of the day, the entire drive was completely without traffic or incident.

Once in Salisbury, the rain that had been ducking in and out our entire trip was back out again. It was about 1:00 pm or so, so of course, the boys were hungry. We stopped in a J D Wetherspoon Pub for lunch. Overall, lunch was OK the cost was about $60.00 or 30 GBP for five of us. One problem was that despite the advertisement of being a family friendly pub, the emphasis here was definitely on the pub (the floors had that sticky beer feel and the smell permeated the pub).

Now that all were fortified, we could go on to the Salisbury Cathedral. I really think that after our days of travel, people were beginning to tire at this point. Our visit to the cathedral wound up being fairly brief as the “teens on the fast track” raced through the cathedral in a matter of minutes and then pestered us to leave. It really is a beautiful cathedral – perhaps someday they’ll get back to it when they are in more of a mood to look.

Next stop Stonehenge. Now I have to say that this stop was a bit of a disappointment to me. The last time that I was there was back in 1986, when you could still get up close to the stones. I understand the need to preserve the stones, but it seems that some of the significance of these great stones in the middle of a field in England gets lost when you are too far away to really see how large the stones are. For 20.50 GBP I felt that this was a bit of a rip off. I almost wish that we had chosen to do what others did, and stop on the roadside and view the sight through the fence. Anyway – enough complaining. It is still a fascinating place and one the boys are glad to have seen.

On our way to Bath, we were rerouted due to a traffic accident. It was on this leg of the trip that my sons saw their favorite road sign. Road sign you say? Yes, lesson #14 on the teen fast track – the eyes of a teenage are much sharper and more easily pick up the funny things in life that an older person might overlook. On one of the detour back roads we passed a military installation. Somewhere on a stretch of road in that vicinity, we passed a “Tank Crossing” sign. They thought it was hysterical and needless to say, took a picture.

That brings up the subject of our camera. Although I knew it was an ill advised move, we purchased a new digital camera the night before we left on our trip. We had a small very basic one that only took OK pictures before. The unfortunate thing was that when my husband packed the camera, he only brought the instruction manual that was written in Spanish. My oldest is in his fifth year of Spanish, so he was able to translate enough that we did manage to get OK pictures. While sitting in traffic in the car on this delayed leg however, he experimented quite a bit with the camera and the wonders of our new camera were “unlocked”. If only he’d thought to play around with it on the plane ride over from the US.

Our accommodations that night, and for the next two nights after that were at the Eagle House in Bathford, just on the outskirts of Bath. We couldn’t have been happier with the location. We found the traffic in Bath to be just awful, yet this was a quick five minute drive away but removed from all of the chaos. The host and hostess, John and Rosamund do a lovely job with the hotel. It should be noted that the Eagle House is also home to the Inn keeper's family, so you will find games and reading material in the living room and you may hear someone playing the piano in the afternoon. In that respect, it is actually more like a B&B than a hotel. The rooms are nicely decorated in a "Laura Ashley" coordinated style with nice bed linens and towels. The teenagers in our party were especially delighted with the chance to play on the lawn tennis court for several hours each evening. This was especially fun for the boys since Wimbledon was going on at this time. We would definitely go back to the Eagle House.

Dinner that night and for each of the three nights we stayed there was at the Longs Arms tavern 5 - 10 minutes away in South Wraxall. The food was fabulous! John highly recommended this pub and his recommendation was absolutely accurate. This is a small country pub and they pride themselves on creating their menu daily based on what is available and in season at the local farms. Over the course of our three nights we enjoyed some amazing lamb chops, pork chops, beautiful salads, wonderfully tender steak, fresh bangers, delightful desserts. There was not one thing that we ordered at that restaurant that we didn’t absolutely love. We were so impressed the first night, that we couldn’t bring ourselves to pass up any other opportunities to eat dinner there. Just Wonderful!!!!! Dinner for six, including non-alcoholic beverages for five and a nice wine for one, averaged about $240.00 or 120 GBP per night.

Next up – Tintern Abbey and the Roman Baths
Momof3sons is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 11:21 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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I just wanted to say that I did the same thing as your husband: I bought a new camera for a trip last year, and thought I could read the instruction book on the long international flight. Too bad it was in Spanish! D'oh. Boy did I feel dumb for not noticing the "Instructiones." So let your husband know he's not the only one to do that.
cheryllj is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 11:29 AM
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I will let him know that.

The funny thing is - the copy written in English was sitting in the box when we arrived home. Oh well.
Momof3sons is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 12:04 PM
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Same for me -- I just grabbed the wrong one and left the English one in the box. It just never occurred to me that there would be TWO instruction books, so I grabbed the first one I noticed and threw it in my carryon without a second thought.

I'm enjoying the rest of your trip report, btw. I just didn't have any other comment.
cheryllj is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 12:51 PM
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So glad that you have had a chance to get back and work on this report some more. I am enjoying it still and look forward tothe next installment.

Thanks for a fun and informative report.
irishface is offline  
Oct 9th, 2007, 12:06 PM
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When I started this trip report in August, I had no idea that the writing was going to be spread out over so much time. I’m sorry for all of the delays and will do my best to complete my report before the 22nd (the two month mark – yikes!).

June 26 –
Occasionally in this report I have mentioned the fact that rain seemed to be a constant threat on this trip. With few exceptions, we really avoided many lasting downpours. However, the area of the UK we were visiting could not say the same thing. Our arrival in the area was just after the flooding rains of this summer and that fact would affect travels.

On this particular day we had plans to make the relatively short drive into Wales to see Tintern Abbey. I had visited the abbey on my travels in 1986 and remember being so struck by the rustic beauty of the abbey. As it turned out, our short drive actually became rather long due to the road closure of the main road leading from the M4 to the abbey. We wound up enjoying an unexpected lovely drive through the Welsh countryside and then down through a majestic old forest into the tiny picturesque town of Tintern.

The windy back roads had added so much time onto our travels that it was now time for lunch. We decided to have lunch at the Abbey Mill restaurant where we enjoyed a very pleasant lunch. For the most part we stuck to a ploughman’s lunch and several types of sandwiches, however the menu did have a nice variety of food types and everything was quite fresh and made in house. Following lunch we milled about the shops on premises briefly and then headed to the abbey.

Just as I remembered it, Tintern Abbey (cost 3.5 GPB each) was a fantastic sight set against the green hillsides of the Wye Valley with the blue sky overhead. They have done a wonderful job with their simple plaque system of providing a vivid picture of life at the Abbey during its operational days. We all spent lots of time exploring the Abbey grounds. The boys also spent lots of time photographing themselves jumping all over the Abbey – jumping over streams, jumping off walls….Ahhhh the energy of youth. Again we perused the wonderful little gift shop. My mother purchased two beautiful pewter and pearl celtic pendant necklaces – one for me and one for herself (I forget the exact prices but I remember they were quite reasonable – maybe about 10-15 GBP each).

When we were finally ready to head back to Bath, the main road was open, so our return trip was quick and uneventful. I neglected to mention that on our way out of Bath in the morning, we had dropped our laundry at Speedy Wash on the edge of town. John had recommended them when queried about laundry options. I remembered that there was a laundromat in Bath, I just couldn’t remember where. We also decided that we didn’t want to spend half of our day doing laundry. Well – I’m not certain if we made the right choice. It cost us 20 GPB to have 2 loads of laundry washed. When we dropped the laundry off, we were told that it would cost 10 GPB per load and the lady who took our laundry was fairly certain that she could fit it all in one load. Apparently she could not. To add insult to injury, my 15 year old swears that all of his bright clothes came back faded. Now I will say that the laundry was ready when we went back in the late afternoon – cleaned and folded. However $40 for two loads of laundry was difficult to swallow. Lesson #15 on the teen fast track is actually more of a confirmation of a lesson learned at home – insist that teenagers take care of their own laundry. Then if its “not right” they have no one to blame but themselves. (I just couldn’t seem to convince them to wash out their clothes in the sink ).

Our next stop was the Roman Baths (cost 29 GBP for a family ticket). We parked around the corner and arrived just before 5:00 pm (the last entry time for visitors). The free audio guides were quite well done and afforded each of us the opportunity to learn more about the areas of the museum that most interested us. We were able to see all of the museum in the remaining 1 hour before close without feeling really rushed. However, I would recommend that others plan a little more time if possible. It is really a fascinating place. The boys were actually appalled at the money thrown into one of the pools by other tourists until they saw a sign actually encouraging people to make a contribution by throwing it into the pool – they still felt it would have been better for the collection to have been made some other way.

During our walk back to the car, we passed a Subway sandwich shop. The boys had been chomping at the bit to get back to the hotel to play lawn tennis all day, so they suggested that they buy dinner at Subway and the adults could go out to dinner. In the end, all of my guys (my 3 sons and my husband) opted for the Subway dinner and tennis. My mom and I returned for our second dinner at the Longs Arms Tavern.

On our drive out of Bath, we did drive up and around the Circus and the Royal Crescent. Given that most of our group was also fascinated by architecture, my sons included, we drove slowly through both areas in order to more fully appreciate these great examples of Georgian architecture. Bath really is a lovely city.

Next up – our “Disneyland” experience in Warwick
Momof3sons is offline  
Oct 9th, 2007, 12:13 PM
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I know life can get in the way, but I hope you will continue to the finish of this truly enjoyable trip report.
LCBoniti is offline  
Oct 10th, 2007, 07:25 AM
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Thanks LC - you are a faithful encourager.

June 27th –
Today we were off to visit Warwick and the Warwick Castle. I also secretly hoped that we would be able to visit a little in the Cotswolds. In order to optimize our day, we elected to make the relatively easy drive from Bathford to Warwick via the M5 and the M40. The drive was quite easy with the only stress coming just south of Birmingham when we were afraid that we would not find one of the easy auto stops before we ran out of gas. Thankfully, just as we were about loose all hope (Ok- this may be a slight exaggeration) we found an easy access auto stop in the Alvechurch area (cost for a tank of gas $61.29 or 30.01 GPB). With the threat of running out of gas removed, we completed our drive to Warwick.

Once in Warwick, we disregarded the signs for the castle parking and headed closer to the castle. Success! We found a parking place just outside the wall beyond the stable entrance. Parking on the street is free for 2 hours. Cost for six (or maybe just 5 – I can’t remember who paid for my mom’s ticket) for Warwick Castle was $146.16 or 71.70 GBP. Although this isn’t quite as steep as Disney tickets, the price did compare to the prices of amusement parks in the US and this isn’t where the comparisons end. Upon purchasing the tickets we were given a schedule of the “shows” that were scheduled throughout the day – things like the trebuchet demonstration. We only sat through one full demonstration, but it really was a well scripted show, right down to the expected response that they directed from the audience. Given my sons ages this was a little too “cutesy” for them. They would much rather just have seen the trebuchet in action and moved on.

Throughout the castle, there were exhibits. My Mom and I checked out the Royal Weekend Party created by Madame Tussauds while the guys checked out the Kingmaker and Dream of Battle exhibits also with Madame Tussauds wax figures. These two exhibits were a big hit with the guys and they have lots of funny pictures capturing the exhibit. The Royal Weekend Party on the other hand was a bit of a snooze and I’m glad that the boys did not spend time visiting that exhibit. In addition, there were costumed workers roaming about the grounds and acting as guides as well (reminiscent of the costumed Disney characters). Although the castle is beautifully preserved, I guess that it was just a little too commercialized for our tastes. That said, the visit was successful and enjoyed by all.

Just before the 2 hours of free parking was up, my mom and I went out and moved the car into one of the paid parking places just outside of this same gate (cost 1GPB for I believe 1 hour of time). I walked back in to meet the guys and they decided that 2 hours was a long enough visit for them. It was about 1:15 and they were most interested in finding a place for lunch. Now that we had our parking secured, we walked up the street, past the TI, crossed the street, and stopped at a small restaurant that specialized in organic foods. The menu was limited but there was something for all. As I recall, some of the food was quite good, but the chili that was ordered by several members of our party was a little too hot for our mild palettes. In fact, now that I think about it, I gave my lunch, probably a sandwich of some sort to my youngest son and ate his chili. He is the least adventurous eater in our family, yet also the one who is the most affected when he gets hungry. As such, we are always mindful of Lesson #3 of the teen fast track – plan on having to make lots of stops for food.

Warwick itself was a lovely little town with several beautiful examples of more traditional half-timbered buildings. From Warwick we made the drive on to Stratford and had hoped to continue on visiting Chipping Camden on our way back to Bath. Unfortunately the traffic was quite congested in Stratford and it began raining just as we were making our way into the town. Lesson #16 on the teen fast track came into play there – once teenagers have seen something (i.e. thatched roof cottages and half-timbered houses in quaint little towns) once, it looses its appeal. With the rain dampening our visit time the boys were not up for exploring Stratford or Chipping Camden. My mom and I have visited this area before, so we weren’t pressed about walking around in the rain and my husband was not particularly pressed either. We made our way out of the Stratford traffic as quickly as possible and got back on the road to Bath.

We returned again to the Longs Arms tavern for dinner that night. Part of the reason we chose to return again was that my husband and I were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary that day. We always like to celebrate with a special meal and we knew that we were guaranteed that at the Longs Arms. We were not disappointed. The owner and his wife have done a lovely job of creating a warm and special atmosphere in a beautiful, historic pub. Primarily the patrons seemed to be locals from the neighboring towns enjoying this well kept secret. By the end of our visit, we were made to feel as though we were now part of the “family” as well. I think that I can safely say that this was everyone’s favorite restaurant from the entire trip. We were sad that we would not be returning again the next day.

Next stop – on to London.
Momof3sons is offline  
Oct 10th, 2007, 09:26 AM
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Happy Anniversary (belated)!!!

I love to hear of people celebrating a significant anniversary in a special place. You will always remember this one.

I can't remember if I already said so, but my sisters and I are in the planning stages of a UK/Ireland trip and this information is especially helpful.
LCBoniti is offline  
Oct 10th, 2007, 09:52 AM
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Thank you for your anniversary wishes - we feel very blessed and hope to celebrate many more years together.

No - you hadn't mentioned your trip planning. I'm glad the information is helpful. I always have lots of fun planning for trips, and one with your sisters, that sounds wonderful!

If you have any specific questions please ask. I know that my memory isn't always the best, but I'm certain that between the six of us, someone may be able to come up with an answer.
Momof3sons is offline  
Oct 10th, 2007, 11:02 AM
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Thanks for a great report. I so enjoyed reading about your adventures.

As a high school teacher, I can say that your boys sound like wonderful young men with great attitudes. I love the story about them using the camera on their phone as a flashlight!
BlueSwimmer is offline  
Oct 10th, 2007, 11:24 AM
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Thank you for your kind words BlueSwimmer. My boys are great kids, but definitely teenage boys and all that term entails. Fortunately for us however, they all seem to do their best to avoid a lot of the "teen drama".

We've told them since they were little that one day they will be each others best friends - "the people who know you best" - so they'd better live with that in mind. It seems that they are on track to fulfull this expectation that we have voiced for so many years.
Momof3sons is offline  
Feb 13th, 2008, 07:18 AM
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I've just read your report about the europe trip.
came to it cause once and then i surf trough the net looking for independent reviews about our restaurant.
To make it clearer i'm the headchef from the Sol y Sombra Tapas and Wine Bar in Killorglin Co.Kerry
So i simply wanted to thank you for the good review and i'm very pleased that you and your familly had a great evening at our beautyfull location.
If ever back in Ireland, it would be our pleasure to serve you again.
Thanks again from the whole Sol y Sombra team.
MDKaa is offline  

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