London Town

I am concluding my travel blogging with additional pics from our three days in London…and some personal thoughts on traveling.

London was a surprise to me. Or perhaps, more accurately stated, my response to being in London was a surprise. The energy of this big, busy, ever shifting city was amazing to me. I loved the historical elements, and seeing well known landmarks like Big Ben and the London Tower. Our guided tours were fun and informative.

However, it was the people…the many, many people gathered here from countries around the world…that captivated me. The combined energy of so many souls, with their stories and their unfolding lives, surrounded me and impacted me deeply. I enjoy people watching anyway. Here, in a city of 8.8 million plus, the throngs of people were fascinating rather than overwhelming.

And yet, sadly, I tend to crop people out of my photos. I wish now that I had taken more pics of people walking and playing and laughing and sharing. I’ve come home with a determination to get more candid photos, on my next trip!

Here are additional shots around London:

Although our London hotel was housed in an older building, it was quite nice inside. This pic of our hotel captures my traveling companions in the foreground. I am grateful that my mom, sisters and niece traveled with me. It was a wonderful, shared adventure that I will never forget! And trust me, there were a few things I might want to forget…such as the escalator incident, in which my mom and I both fell down and tangled with each other and the luggage…and the day I forgot to lock the bathroom door during my shower and had not one but four interruptions…however, overall, this was a dream come true trip with my family.

My favorite shot of Big Ben.

This pic, at least, has some people in it! Taken in front of Buckingham Palace.

Statues in front of Buckingham.

Queen Victoria.

Inside London Tower.

The White Tower inside the Tower complex.

Tower Bridge.

Harry Potter fans will recognize this site, located inside the King’s Cross Station. There is a Harry Potter shop located next to this photo op place. Long lines kept us from having our photos taken.

I’ve had several people tell me this past week that I was so lucky that I got to travel to Italy, Ireland, Scotland and England this year. I understand what they are really saying. What they are expressing is their own desire to travel. And I get that! I have wanted to visit Scotland since I was a wee girl.

Luck had nothing to do with my travels this year though. They were intentional desires, released to the Divine. I dreamed. I planned. I saved. I read and researched and included my intended destinations on my vision boards. And then I opened my heart and lived life, with excitement, anticipation and curiosity.

And the Divine met me in those desires to travel, and explore, and see the world. Opportunities came. The funding arrived, exactly on time. I traveled. Family members got to travel with me. This is how life works for me. It’s a dance, and an interaction…it’s creative play, and going with the flow, and it’s accepting Divine invitations.

Travel is something I want to continue doing. So the intentions are still flowing. The desire to explore is out there, resting with the Divine, and my heart remains open to delicious possibilities.

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.” Hans Christian Andersen

I am looking forward to my next adventure, which will be next summer, most likely. However, I am open to everything, attached to nothing. When the invitation to travel comes, I’ll pack my carry on and go!

Several of my photos inadvertently caught an airplane flying overhead. I didn’t consider that a mistake. It is very symbolic of my desire to travel and experience new places. My favorite photo, posted below, captured a jet high in the sky, with a double rainbow nearby. The rainbow…a symbol of hope and promise.

Yes. I’ll accept that as my own personal message, my invitation…do you want to explore, do you want to play, do you want to travel? I do! My carry on became a casualty to the escalator incident. I am ordering a new one, a sturdier one. And I will be ready to go!

Passing Through Glasgow

Our time in Glasgow was very brief. Most of our last full day in Scotland was spent traveling by car, from the Isle of Skye to Glasgow. We had hoped to catch a hop on/hop off bus and tour the city, but by the time we arrived and dropped off our luggage at the hotel, the day was quickly slipping away.

We barely had time to make it to the one place we all wanted to visit…the Glasgow Cathedral with the huge, Victorian cemetery behind it, known as the Necropolis. And yet, riding in taxis instead of on the bus allowed us to have fun conversations with several different colorful residents of Scotland’s biggest city. And the rain that continually fell didn’t deter us but rather made us appreciate the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant we chose for dinner. It was the right spot. Our young waiter was attentive and we enjoyed chatting with him about Scotland and the US.

Here are additional photos from our brief, but pleasant sojourn in Glasgow.

The glistening square outside the Glasgow Cathedral. In Scotland, you just accept that it is going to rain. We dressed accordingly, in warm layers, with hoodies to cover our heads when the rain fell steadily. When the sky lightened or that rare object, the sun, broke through the clouds, we would push the hoods off our heads and shed a wrap or two.

The sacred beauty of the cathedral.

Far from morbid, the Necropolis, perched high atop a hill, has a unique beauty of its own. The lateness of the day coupled with the rain allowed us to walk among the massive monuments mostly alone. The thing that struck me about this City of the Dead is that the tombstones and memorials list the names of the deceased, and their occupations. This is a burial place of the wealthy and well known in old Glasgow. What the person did in life seemed to be as important as who they were. Even so, in the end, all their empty shells returned to the dust, death being the great equalizer among men.

We wondered if we should be concerned about this sight!

Such a variety of monuments and memorials.

What a gorgeous monument, with its black weathered door.

Outside the gates of the Necropolis is one of the few remaining blue police boxes in the UK. Fans of the long running British show, Doctor Who, will understand why a pic with the blue box was a must!

And that was all we had time for in Glasgow. Another short taxi ride to Buchanan Street, to people watch and find a place to eat, gave us another opportunity for a lively conversation. The next morning, we boarded a train, London bound.

British actor Darren Boyd says about this friendly city:

“For me, Glasgow is all about the people and the spirit of the place.”

I agree. I love Edinburgh. And if it feels like home to me, then Glasgow feels like the fun city I visit on holiday. The people are friendly here. They laugh heartily and share their stories easily. There is a lively energy in Glasgow that courses through the city, encouraging me to return, to explore and see what else I can discover.

I accept that invitation. Glasgow, I will return.

Land of Unicorns

You know that any country who claims the unicorn as its national animal is going to be magical. As we left the Borders behind, heading north into the Highlands, it was easy to set logic aside and firmly believe there were unicorns, hidden in the deep shadows pooled beneath stately forests.

Because of the courage and skill of my sister, Debbie, we journeyed by car. The further north we went, the more wild the countryside became.

These additional photos capture some of the rugged beauty of the Highlands.

The Highland Coo (cow).

Mysterious Loch Ness

The ruins of Castle Urquhart overlooking Loch Ness.

Heart piercing beauty outside the car windows.

There are numerous waterfalls cascading down the Highland slopes.

Sitting pretty, Eilean Donan Castle, near the Isle of Skye.

From the hotel room window, Isle of Skye.

Near the Fairy Pools on Skye.

Since my return, I have been watching episodes of Outlander, a story of survival, challenges and romance, set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1700s. The breathtaking scenery captured on film is familiar and brings me joy, while it simultaneously stirs the desire to return to Scotland.

The female star of Outlander, Caitriona Balfe, who portrays the heroine Claire, said, “The Scottish Highlands are incredible. There seems to be magic and poetry everywhere.”

I so agree. I have experienced the magic of the Highlands and the poetry found there roots around my heart, waiting to be born through expression.

I’ll keep my heart open.

In the Borders

On one of our most magical days in Scotland, full of delightful surprises off the beaten path, we visited the ancestral home of Clan Maitland. Located in the region south of Edinburgh known as the Borders, Thirlestane Castle sits just outside the village of Lauder.

My maiden name is Lauderdale. The surname originates from this area, as the long line of Maitlands, earls and one duke, used the name as part of their title. The current Maitland Clan chieftain, Ian, who resides in London, is the 18th Earl of Lauderdale. Edward Maitland-Carew and his family are the current owners, and occupants, of Thirlestane Castle. During the summer months, the castle is open to visitors.

I am so glad that it is. This was my second visit to Thirlestane, and my niece’s second as well, while my sisters and mom saw it for the first time. Photographs were not allowed the first time I toured this 16th century castle. However, to my amazement, the signs now say no flash photography permitted. After asking permission, to be sure, my family and I started over in the first room open to the public, and happily snapped pics with our phones.

Welcome to Thirlestane Castle.

A parlor, with dark wood paneling.

An old wheelchair

Old photographs and awards from an early amateur photographer.

The recessed window alcoves show how thick the walls are. Castles are more than residences, they are fortresses, places of protection.

The billiard room.

The small library

The Duke of Lauderdale’s bedroom

The Duke of Lauderdale, a powerful man in Scotland and England.

A guest bedroom that was specifically reserved for Bonnie Prince Charles of England.

Formal sitting rooms, with ornate plaster ceilings.

The grand dining room.

The nurseries, with an impressive collection of vintage toys.

One of many staircases in the castle.

We so enjoyed our visit to Thirlestane Castle. There are 150 rooms in the castle, and although only a fraction of those are open to the public, it is easy to gain an appreciation for this gorgeous historic home and soak up the atmosphere. The energy within these thick walls is interesting to me, as I can imagine being accompanied by a host of past inhabitants as I wander room to room.

Are they as curious about me, as I am about them? Do they feel the connection of kinship that I feel?

The Borders is an apt name for this region in Scotland, as it lies between Edinburgh and Glasgow and England. A borderland is defined as an overlapping area between two things.

It is an apt description for me as well. I live my life in the borders, embracing reality and imagination, the natural world and the spirit world, and my Scottish/Irish/English heritage while also being American.

My borders are not sharply defined, the edges blurring together, shifting and enlarging, as I grow and flow through life and landscapes and regions. No wonder I feel like I belong in Scotland.

My heart has found its way home.

High Atop Castle Rock

Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline of this historic city. Located atop an extinct volcano, in the heart of Old Town, the fortress stands as a stark reminder Scotland’s more turbulent times, when wars were fought between countries and even between clans.

Touted as Scotland’s most visited landmark, Edinburgh Castle draws in more than a million visitors a year. We made our way to the top of the Royal Mile to explore this ancient castle and learn about its place in Scottish history.

Here are additional photos from our time

within the castle compound.

Looking toward the Firth of Forth, east of Edinburgh.

There has been a royal castle on this rock since the reign of King David I, in the 12th century. Most of the castle’s original structures were destroyed in the 16th century during the Lang Siege, due to artillery bombardment, with the exception of Saint Margaret’s Chapel, the Royal Palace and the Great Hall.

Stained glass window and huge painting in the Great Hall.

We spent time wandering in the castle prisons, where the somber energy was heightened by dark shadows and the interesting play of light in stone passageways and long, dormitory style rooms. There was a sacredness present there, that told of survival rather than captivity, and life rather than death. Some of my favorite photos of the castle were taken in the prison.

Hammocks strung above narrow cots.

I love the light finding its way through these shuttered windows. It symbolizes hope to me.

Although the prisons could be considered depressing, I found a resilient beauty in them. The stone chambers would have provided unyielding barriers to the men within, however, their souls were not contained. We viewed etchings and carvings the prisoners made on wooden doors and upon the stone walls themselves. The creative pictures were vital reminders of home and life and hope.

The One O’Clock Gun is fired every day, except Sunday, at precisely 1:00. It is a time signal, fired for the ships in the harbor, since 1861.

There is a castle tea house in the compound, where I enjoyed a cup of hot lemon grass and ginger tea.

We enjoyed our time on Castle Rock. The views of the city are amazing. I stood peering over the battlements, and imagined what Edinburgh looked like in the centuries past. Remove the cars and buses, and much of it probably looked the same as it currently does. I felt the solidness and permanence of this stronghold and my Scottish blood rejoiced.

The statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace were added to the gatehouse entrance in 1929. They stand as silent sentinels, defenders of Scotland’s freedoms. I feel the castle itself is a sentinel, watching over the city from atop its stony perch, a grounding force for Edinburgh’s residents and visitors. Long may it stand.

The Edinburgh Way of Life

On the fourth day of our three country adventure, my traveling companions and I took a short flight from Ireland to Scotland. Edinburgh Airport was our destination. Because the flight was so brief, we didn’t climb high above the earth. Instead, the countryside, rivers, buildings and houses were easily discernible from my window seat vantage point.

This was perfect for me. I watched intently as we flew low across the Borders and approached Scotland’s capital city. Although I enjoyed visiting Ireland and England, Scotland calls strongly to me. My soul answers that siren call, energetically stretching out ahead of my body to connect with my ancestral home.

I am not typically a big city girl. Joplin, with a population of 55,000, is just about the right size for me. How then to explain why this sprawling metropolis of almost half a million people has captivated me so, earning the title of My Favorite City in the World.

I love the energy of Edinburgh, home of national festivals and endless activities, museums and universities, cathedrals, historical sites and a castle. Together Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town form a UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws more than a million visitors a year.

I was grateful to be one of those visitors this year. Here are additional highlights of our first day in Auld Reekie:

First glimpse of Edinburgh Castle. Our apartment was in the neighborhood behind the ancient fortress. From almost anywhere in the city, you can look up and orient yourself by locating the castle.

Wellington Statue

The Scott Monument near the Princes Street Gardens.

The Scottish Saltire, white cross on a sky blue background, and the red, white and blue Union Jack.

Because my son is a police sergeant, I like to take pics of police cars in other countries. Edinburgh’s police car.

I wrote about Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful little dog who refused to leave his owner’s grave after the man died. Bobby is buried just inside the cemetery gates, near his owner. I wondered about the sticks. My niece and sister pointed out that dogs like to play fetch, chasing after a thrown stick. Ahhhh, yes, I got it.

The grave of Bobby’s owner, John Gray. Bobby remained near this site for 14 years, until he too died. The city adopted him and made sure he had food, water and shelter. More sticks as a memorial at this gravesite.

Greyfriars Kirk Cemetery.

The leaves were beginning to turn in Edinburgh and the weather was much cooler than in Missouri, necessitating long sleeves and jackets.

Everywhere I look in Old Town, it’s like a scene from a Charles Dickens novel come to life.

We concluded our first day in Edinburgh with dinner at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. William Brodie, 1741-1788, was more commonly known as Deacon Brodie. He was a respectable cabinet maker by day, and a city councilor, who maintained a secret life as a burglar, partly for the thrill of stealing and partly to fund his gambling habit.

Part of his job as a cabinetmaker was to install and repair locks in prestigious homes. Brodie used his day job as a way to get info about his clients and to make wax impressions of the locks’ keys, allowing him to easily enter the houses later and steal. Brodie was eventually caught, found guilty of his crimes and hanged before a crowd of 40,000.

Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father owned furniture made by Brodie, was fascinated by the dichotomy between Brodie’s respectable life and his true nature, and was inspired to write The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a result.

In fact, Stevenson found Edinburgh itself to be leading a double existence.

I love the history and colorful stories associated with Edinburgh. I feel like I have only just begun to learn these stories. The city has so much more to reveal to me.

My earnest desire is to live in Edinburgh part time. My grandchildren are still young and I could not be away from them or my adult children for long. My family is here in the States. They are dear to me. I envision myself living a month in Edinburgh and then three months in Joplin, going back and forth throughout the year.

I have released that desire, that dream, to the Dream Maker. I don’t need to figure out the hows or the whens…I will just hold to the whys. Edinburgh feels like home to me. It feels right. A mixture of contentment and excitement fills me there, in a way that it does not elsewhere. I am open to all possibilities, and attached to nothing. If I am meant to be in Edinburgh part time, the way will be revealed to me, and I will simply take each step as it is shown to me.

Writer Ian Rankin said, “Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life. I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print.”

My sentiments, exactly.

Irish Memories

When I set off on adventures, my daily blog becomes a travel blog, capturing the highlights of each day. Because the days are full and long, these posts are necessarily brief so that I can get to bed and catch a few hours of sleep before the start of the next exciting day. It has become my custom to share additional thoughts, stories and photos in the days after the conclusion of the trip.

Today’s post focuses on memories from the first two days of our girls’ trip, in Dublin, Ireland.

Ireland was the only country, out of the three we visited during this trip, that none of us had seen before. My mom, sisters, niece and I all have Irish, Scottish and English heritage. We were excited about the opportunity to visit Dublin, Ireland and connect more deeply with our Irish roots.

Additional photos and thoughts from our Dublin stay:

Gorgeous architecture…

We walked around the streets of Dublin, gawking and gazing upward at the beautiful old buildings. Our primary mode of transportation in this city was the hop on/hop off bus, which we made excellent use of.

Green parks and soothing rivers and lakes…

I loved St Stephens Green, a large park in central Dublin. However, there were other parks, some surrounding monuments and memorials, and there was a zoo. We rode past the zoo many times but did not stop. I appreciated the dedicated green spaces in Dublin where people could walk or stretch out on the grass. And like other European cities, many residents create their own miniature gardens in hanging baskets, window boxes and on roof tops.

Friendly people…

As much as we enjoyed touring the city and admiring the buildings and sampling the food, it was the people of Dublin that we fell in love with. The first thing we adored was their charming Irish accent. I’ve heard Irish actors speak on talk shows and in movies. However, this was my first time to be immersed in the culture and hear many people speaking in the same lilting cadence.

We looked forward to the tour bus drivers’ narratives, especially when they said, “The next stop will be stop number thirty-three…” The Irish don’t pronounce the “th” sound like Americans do. So thirty-three sounds to our ears like “turty tree”. And “with you” sounds like “wit choo”. We smiled every time. My sister Linda pointed out that our sister Debbie, who is my mom’s third daughter, was the “turd daughter”, which became a little family joke!

While in Dublin, we picked up the slang word feckin’. Let me just say it’s a colorful word, similar to an American word that begins with the same letter. The Irish version sounds more playful and less crude and found its way into our vocabulary over the next 11 days.

The Irish people we met were happy, light hearted, fun and gracious. Of the three countries we visited, Ireland’s citizens were the most humorous and by a slight margin, the friendliest.

I enjoyed this first glimpse of Ireland. Our stay there was short and unfortunately we didn’t have time to venture out into the countryside, which for me warrants another visit in the near future. The five of us embraced our Irish roots to become Celtic women while we were there. Ireland called to my Irish blood and awakened my poetic soul, kindling the desire to learn more about this part of my heritage.

I’ve been told I have Irish feet. It was explained to me that Irish feet is a way of saying I have an inborn desire to travel and move about. I understand that better now.

Ireland, I will be back. You are a part of me, and I of you.

Exploring London

What fun we had today, exploring the busy, high energy city of London. There was never a moment when we weren’t surrounded by people. Whether they were crowded with us on the underground tube, touring the London Dungeon alongside us, or milling about at Buckingham Palace, we had companions, curious travelers all of us.

The highlight of our morning was the London Dungeon Tour. This high quality experience, a cross between a walking tour and an amusement park ride, offers performers in period costumes portraying characters from London’s murky past. We saw executioners and Sweeney Todd’s lady friend, Mrs Lovett, a physician’s assistant during the bubonic plague and Mary Jane Kelly, Jack the Ripper’s final victim. The tour was a fascinating and well done look at the dark underside of London.

While photographs were not allowed, we had three pics taken during the tour that we purchased at the end, primarily because of my good natured mom’s hysterical expressions! The final ride features an unexpected element of surprise, and they snap a pic to capture the moment. We have giggled all evening, over the look on Mom’s face.

Mom-I’m supposed to be doing what?? Ashley is ready, though, to take off a head!

The London fire. Mom looks like she’s thinking Fire? What fire? And Debbie’s smile makes me think she started it!

What can I say?! Mom’s precious face…

After the dungeons, it was good to walk in the sunshine and fresh air, grateful for life!

Here are highlights of our wanderings:

The London Eye, on the Thames River.

Big Ben, undergoing repairs.

Buckingham Palace-the queen is not in residence currently. The palace is beautiful. There were a couple of uniformed guards on duty in their characteristic red coats and tall black hats.

Group photo in front of the palace gates.

The Lion and the Unicorn.

A piper on Westminster Bridge.

Exploring London today, I wore a t shirt from Solgave Clothing that felt very appropriate. Across the front of the shirt it proclaims, in bold letters, LOOK FOR THE HELPERS. In light of recent terrorist attacks in this city of 8.8 million people, I was very aware of the need for people who help, for souls who see beyond race and color and nationality and gender and age.

Walking across the bridge where an attack killed 5 people in March of this year, I didn’t feel fear. I felt compassion and a strong surge of desire for humanity to heal its rifts and open its collective heart. Tears came to my eyes as I watched the throngs of people walking along both sides of the bridge, as a lone piper played the bagpipes. The world was represented there, among those journeyers, from countries around the globe. They spoke many languages, dressed in a wide variety of clothes, had beautiful complexions in endless hues, and smiled when I made eye contact. I loved each person.

I was affected by those words on my shirt. I became more aware of being a helper. When we left the hotel, we almost immediately walked past a man begging on the street. He sat on the sidewalk, quietly asking for help as we walked by. I am never quite sure what to do for the multitude of homeless and destitute who beg for money. I’ve given cash…and I’ve looked the other way.

I had walked 20 or 30 steps past this man, when I looked down at my shirt. LOOK FOR THE HELPERS. How could I walk on by, wearing such a statement? Was it simply a sentiment on a shirt…or a belief to live by?

I went back, and gave him the cash in my pocket. Looking for the helpers meant looking within today, and then offering hope and love and a spirit of kinship.

Exploring London became a deeper exploration of my own heart.

Adventures in the Highlands

This morning we left the charming city of Stirling behind and headed north into the Scottish Highlands. This region is so wildly beautiful that it makes my heart ache and brings tears to my eyes. It has been a tremendous advantage, having a car. Debbie continues to excel at navigating through Scotland’s villages, cities and rural areas. She seems quite comfortable with driving on the left side of the road and from the right side of the car!

Our journey today was planned, but flexible, and naturally divided into three areas of the Highlands.

Loch Ness

We drove through Inverness and then headed west along Scotland’s most famous loch, the supposed home of a sea creature that has been sighted for hundreds of years. Affectionately known as Nessie, the existence of this water beast has never been proven, absolutely, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of people from stopping by the loch each day, hoping to be the one who captures the Loch Ness monster in a photo.

Monster or no monster, the loch is hauntingly beautiful with its murky waters and miles and miles of rugged shorelines. The ruins of Castle Urquhart add to the mysteriousness of the region.

We stopped for Scottish tea and bowls of homemade soup before arriving at Loch Ness. Loved the thistle tea set.

Loch Ness

Ruins of Castle Urquhart

Eilean Donan Castle

From Loch Ness we continued west and north toward our ultimate destination, the Isle of Skye. The Highlands captured our attention and drew forth our appreciation as we drove between towering hills covered in the last of the blooming heather and a variety of trees. We marveled at forests so thick that the ground beneath was shrouded in darkness. We exclaimed over cascading waterfalls and flocks of freshly shorn sheep.

Just before we arrived at the Isle of Skye, one of Scotland’s most picturesque castles appeared…Eilean Donan. For the third day in a row, we toured a castle! This 13th century medieval structure is situated on an island where three sea lochs meet. We enjoyed a tour of the grounds and the interior of the castle. This was another Scottish bucket list item for me that I got to cross off today.

Scottish Highlands

The picturesque Eilean Donan Castle

The castle bridge was the perfect spot for today’s group pic.

The waters surrounding the castle.

Isle of Skye

Our last stop for the day was the remote and breathtaking Isle of Skye. The only way to access the island is by ferry or by crossing the solitary bridge that connects the isle with the mainland. We crossed the bridge. After settling into our hotel rooms and enjoying a quick dinner together, the five of us got back into our rental car and drove to the Fairy Pools of Skye.

The pools are in a very rural location, down narrow, winding roads through gorgeous mountains and narrow glens with the occasional sheep wandering about. My heart almost couldn’t take in the beauty of it all. Because it was getting dark and the paths to the pools are not easily traveled, we elected to remain on the road high above and take pictures. The curious sheep were so cute that we wanted to pet them, but we only succeeded in talking to them. I crossed the pools off my must see list as well.

Isle of Skye, near the Fairy Pools

Looking down the glen toward the pools. There is one of the sheep in the foreground.

Although we didn’t hike down to the Fairy Pools, I did snap a pic of this beautiful little waterfall near where we parked the car.

Tomorrow we travel south back through the Highlands, to Scotland’s second largest city, Glasgow. It will be our last full day in Scotland, before taking a train into England the following day.

Today I wore another T shirt from Solgave Clothing that captured my thoughts well.

“You are not a drop in the ocean but an ocean in a drop.” Rumi

My heart is so full.

Getting to Know Dublin

We arrived in Dublin, Ireland about 8:30 am this morning, after leaving Tulsa at 3:27 pm the day before. It was a long day of travel, however I am grateful for flights that arrived and departed on time and skies that remained free of storms. Other than the fact that none of us slept well on the plane, it was a smooth flight across the Atlantic. I watched movies and chatted with my family and seat mate, and closed my eyes and rested for a short time.

Today we decided to forego naps, even though we have all been awake for 36 hours, and get to know Dublin.

One of the best ways to get to know a new city is to take a tour on a Hop On/Hop Off bus. We found a café in which to enjoy our first Irish meal together, and then boarded a bus for a tour of Dublin. Come along!

We dined at Copper Alley Bistro, where Mom and I sampled the vegetable soup, which was puréed and served piping hot, and the others had traditional Irish fare such as fish & chips and beef stew. All of our meals were delicious and filling.

We sat on the top deck of a double decker tour bus and appreciated learning about this busy city. About half way through, the driver/tour guide changed and Bill was not only knowledgeable , he was humorous with a delightfully thick Irish brogue. He kept us interested and entertained.

We loved the impressive gothic structures that appeared moody against an overcast sky. We were surprised when we exited the plane this morning to learn it was a brisk 46 degrees in Dublin. Long sleeves and a jacket felt great today to protect against the chill.

We learned about Dublin’s history and heard colorful stories about founders, residents and events. This city has many national art museums, which can be visited free of charge. Today we didn’t “hop on and hop off” of the bus so we could get an overview of Dublin and learn where areas of interest were so we could return to them tomorrow.

One of the saddest stories, accompanied by sobering sculptures, was of the Irish Potato Famine that lasted from 1845-1852. The population decreased dramatically in Ireland, due to death by starvation and the exodus of people seeking to survive by emigrating to other countries. According to our guide, Ireland’s population has not recovered from that great tragedy.

We had fun, on this second day of our adventure. We learned how to get around the city, where to shop for simple dinners eaten at our apartment tonight, and we have a general idea of where major attractions are. As we ate this evening, we each contributed to a list of things we most want to do and see tomorrow.

And now, although it is still daylight outside, one by one the others have gone to bed for a long and well deserved night of rest. Dublin is beautiful and rich with architecture, history and legend. The people are friendly and helpful. We are excited about the possibilities and the opportunities that the new day will bring!