This British Isles adventure was almost beyond description. The rolling hills in myriad shades of green and the stark cliffs jutting out over the ocean in Scotland and Ireland were beautifully inspiring and breathtaking. I hope to return some day so I can have more time to observe and absorb the unusual character and attitudes of those wonderful people.

My sister Becky, her husband John, her daughter Kelli and I arrived in London, England at 7:00 am on Monday, June 21st, 2010 (1:00 am in USA). We took our luggage to the hotel and found out it had no elevator, so poor John and Kelli had to lug the suitcases up two flights of stairs! We were in London for two days. During which we took a tour of the city in an open top bus, walked around the Florence Nightingale Museum and enjoyed the lovely city.

Kelli and Becky in front of Florence Nightingale bust

Kelli and Becky in front of Florence Nightingale bust

John & Kelli spent most of a day at The Tower of London and the military museum while Becky and I went to Summerset House &the Courant Art Gallery. We also checked out Carnaby Street, made famous by the Beatles.

Gayle with Van Gogh at Courant Gallery

Gayle with Van Gogh at Courant Gallery

On Wednesday, the 23rd we took a taxi to Southampton to get on our ship, the Crown Princess. The ship was lovely, especially to Kelli and me because we had a big handicap room on deck 12. On the 24th we docked at Guernsey Island. Everyone but me took a tour of the military occupation of Guernsey by the Germans in World War II. I walked into town by myself and looked around the city there on the port. It was quite a ways, so I got tired pretty early and headed back to the ship. I turned down the first pier I came to and walked almost to the end before I stopped a guy to see if I was heading the right way. He said, “Oh Hon, you’re on the wrong pier.” I almost started crying and I asked if I could get a taxi to take me back to the ship, to which he replied “Don’t be silly, my car’s just down there and I’ll give you a lift.” Wasn’t that sweet?

On the 25th we docked in Cobh Ireland (pronounced cove) in county Cork. In the AM I checked out the exhibit on the ‘Death Ships’ having to do with the Irish Famine, then the Titanic & the Lusitanian (bombed by the Germans in 1915), it was not a joyful experience. There was also a lovely statue of Annie Moore (15) & her brothers. They were the first people processed at Ellis Island in New York City.

Cobh, Ireland, gloomy picture but lovely place

Cobh, Ireland, gloomy picture but lovely place

After lunch I went on an excursion to Kinsale, Ireland. It was a wonderful drive through beautiful country on an enchanting day. Kinsale is a quant village with colorful buildings and really sweet people. I did a lot of walking, maybe that will make up for all of the desserts I’ve eaten. After dinner we went to a really fun song and dance production of ’What a Swell Party’ on the ship.

Kinsale, Ireland

Kinsale, Ireland

Also in Kinsale, I loved this city.

Also in Kinsale, I loved this city.

Beautiful Irish scene near Kinsale

Beautiful Irish scene near Kinsale

I had to get up at 6:00 the next morning so I could be on the pier at 8:00 for a tour of Dublin. It’s a fascinating city dating back to 400 AD and the Celts. We walked around Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells, a hand written bible in Gaelic from 500 AD. There was this marvelous mural depicting the Celtic mythology of the area & I got a picture of it. We then went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Mural in Dublin, Ireland; Celtic Tales

Mural in Dublin, Ireland; Celtic Tales

Dublin chocolate bar; cute huh?

Dublin chocolate bar; cute huh?

Church in Dublin

Church in Dublin

Our next port of call was Liverpool. Becky, John & Kelli took a tour called ‘In the Footsteps of the Beatles’. I’d been to Liverpool before and seen all of that so I went to Chester, England. I knew that Chester was just a few miles from Wales, so I planned on taking a taxi to that country. I spoke to our guide about doing that on the drive to Chester and she kept trying to discourage the idea. I was the last person to get out of the coach when we got there. As I was going down the steps the driver told me to wait a minute and he’d show me where I could catch a taxi. After the guide and all of the people on the tour had walked off and headed toward the cathedral, the coach driver told me that he’d be glad to drive me over to Wales, he thought that would be more interesting than sitting there and waiting for three hours until the tour was over. He drove me across the border into Wales and on into a lovely park with a campground on a peaceful blue lake. We went into the restaurant by the lake and I bought a small picture frame and talked to a few people. Boy the Welsh accent was very hard to understand, but the people were sweet.

Sign going into the Welsh Cit

Sign going into the Welsh Cit

Sign in Welsh Park

Sign in Welsh Park

We got back to Chester and I walked around the city a bit while I waited on the tour group. The driver had asked me not to tell the guide about our little trip and I didn’t. When we got back to the ship the driver gave me a hug, I guess he had been afraid I was going to get him in trouble.

Growing statue in Chester, England

Growing statue in Chester, England

Gayle walking around Chester

Gayle walking around Chester

Cute area in Chester

Cute area in Chester

I had my fears about going into Belfast, Northern Ireland but we were assured that the trouble was over. It’s very interesting how they called the battles, bombings & killings that took place in Northern Ireland for close to thirty years ‘The Troubles’. I went on a narrated city drive and got to see the dramatic murals painted on walls and fences, the Northern Ireland Parliament, the Opera house and some beautiful Victorian and Edwardian buildings; it seems that Queen Victoria loved Belfast. I was dropped off at the Belfast city center and did some walking around and exploring on my own. I bought a cute coffee mug and a calendar.

Mural depicting ‘The Troubles’, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Mural depicting ‘The Troubles’, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Gayle at Queen’s University in Belfast

Gayle at Queen’s University in Belfast

Belfast City Center

Belfast City Center

Glasgow, Scotland was our next port of call and I loved this city. I went on an excursion called ‘Glasgow on Your Own’. They basically drove us into town and dropped us off in Hanover Square and then came and picked everyone up five hours latter. I did a lot of walking around and visiting with people. I love the Scottish brogue, but it does take some getting used to. I heard a lot about the history of the kilts and bought myself one. Of course I don’t know how often I’ll have the opportunity to wear a wool kilt in hot, humid, central Texas, but I did wear it to a formal dinner night on the ship and looked very Scottish.

Gayle in Glasgow, Scotland

Gayle in Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow

Glasgow

The next day was a sea day, which means we didn’t stop at a port city. I mainly did a lot of eating and played bridge all afternoon. I partnered with a woman named Norma and we ended up being the winners. And then we got to Inverness/Loch Ness, Scotland. It is a beautiful lake but we were very disappointed when we didn’t see the Loch Ness Monster. We did get to see Cawdor Castle, which Shakespeare talks about in ‘Macbeth’ and the ruins of Urquhart castle. We stopped at a souvenir shop on the way back to the ship and I bought a tee-shirt. As I was leaving I saw this darling coffee mug that was a kilt with legs sticking out the bottom, but the queue to buy things was so long I knew I didn’t have time to get it.

Loch Ness, no monster

Loch Ness, no monster

Inverness, Scotland

Inverness, Scotland

On July 2nd we docked at Edinburgh (South Queensferry), Scotland. I took the Edinburgh Castle with City Drive excursion along with Becky, John & Kelli. We drove by Holyrood Palace, the official residence to the Queen when she visits, which is beautiful. The tour group walked up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle but I stayed on Princes Street because the walk to the Castle was too treacherous for me. I told my family to look for the kilt mug and get one if they saw it. I walked around the city, talking to people and found a mug, which I bought. Of course my family found one too and got it for me, but I’d rather have two than none. So I now have a red one and a blue one. They also told me that I never would have made it up the steep hills and numerous steps to the castle.

Becky & Gayle in Edinburgh

Becky & Gayle in Edinburgh

Darling shops in Edinburgh, Scotland

Darling shops in Edinburgh, Scotland

Gayle below Edinburgh castle

Gayle below Edinburgh castle

All of us in Edinburgh

All of us in Edinburgh

We then had another sea day to relax before we arrived at Le Havre, France’s second largest port. We had made arrangements to disembark there so we could spend three days in Paris. Kelli and I took the train on into Paris. Becky and John took the excursion into Normandy; John being a military man, he had to see the D Day museum etc and it seemed pretty significant that they were there on July 4th. It was a three hour train ride into Paris, and Kelli had to carry all our luggage, we took a taxi to our hotel. When we got there we found that this hotel didn’t have an elevator or air conditioning either. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I was relieved to find that the hotel John reserved was as bad as the one I reserved in London.

Kelli and I ate some lunch and rested a bit before we started our trek up to Montmartre, the home of Sacre Coeur and the artist village. We ended up making it only half way, because we got so tired. We found a group of artist that were selling their wares and bought a few things then caught a taxi and went back to the hotel. Becky and John got there after midnight. The next day we took a ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tour of Paris which gave John and Kelli the opportunity to see all of the sites. We got off at Lafayette Galleries (a French shopping mall) and did a bit of shopping.

On our final day in Paris, Becky, John & Kelli took off to see Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. I walked down the hill by our hotel to the place where I could catch the ‘hop on- hop off’ bus and went to Musee D’Orsay. It took me a long time to get there and as I was walking into the museum I heard Becky call my name. She had gotten mad at John and Kelli because they couldn’t make up their mind about what they wanted to do, so she left them at the Eiffel Tower and walked to the Orsay to meet me, she was exhausted.

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

It literally amazed me how much the Orsay had changed. I knew it was being remodeled, but I hadn’t been there since 2001 and it really looked different. There was still all of the wonderful Impressionist art work there, but the building and rooms were very dramatic looking in extreme shades of white, gold and black. It no longer looked anything like an old train station. Becky and I enjoyed seeing the work of Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet and Renoir in this beautiful new environment. We then took a taxi to the train station to meet John and Kelli so we could catch the train to London where we were to fly out for home on July 8.

I loved this cruise and found many places in Scotland and Ireland that I would like to visit again. It wasn’t the best decision to travel with Becky, John and Kelli though. They are a family unit unto themselves, so I felt left out and did the majority of things by myself. I guess this was a learning experience for me; I should always plan what I want see and do and scope out how to do it on my own.

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