The Tower of London

On our last full day in London, we had one place we all wanted to tour…the Tower of London. We jumped on and off the Underground to arrive at this well known landmark just before it opened. The plan was to tour the Tower and then finish the day with a hop on/hop off bus tour.

My first surprise was that lots of other people arrived early and the line to purchase tickets was already long. No problem. Although it felt like the line barely moved, 40 minutes later we had tickets.

The real surprise, however, was the Tower itself. Somehow, my education about what the tower actually is, was lacking.

Being an avid reader and movie watcher with an interest in British lit and history, I thought I knew the Tower of London well. However, when I caught my first glimpse of the Tower, I realized my perceptions were skewed.

I expected the Tower to look like this:

Instead, the Tower looks like this!

The Tower isn’t a singular tower…it’s multiple towers, it’s a fortress, it’s a complex! How did I not know this? We spent several hours exploring this fascinating place, rich in history.

Here are the highlights:

My first look at the Tower of London, which was a big surprise, in the early morning sunlight.

William the Conqueror built the White Tower that is now in the center of the complex, in 1078. That tower was considered a symbol of oppression against London by the Norman ruler, and it was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952. However, that was not the primary purpose of the complex. It was a royal residence, a grand palace, early in its history.

I had a lot to learn about the Tower, it seemed, beginning with discovering that the official name of this castle is Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. No wonder the name has been shortened to simply, the Tower of London.

Set up as a community within thick castle walls, there are streets with buildings and living quarters and battlements that circle the fortress, linking multiple towers together. This brick building is the mint shop, where coins were minted.

Inside the fortress. This is a fortified castle.

We climbed up into the battlements, and visited the Medieval Palace first. These rooms were built by and used by King Henry III and King Edward between 1216 and 1307.

The Tower Bridge, as seen from the battlements.

The Raven’s Lodgings and two of the seven ravens who reside within the tower grounds. Legend says that as long as six ravens live at the tower, it will not fall. The ravens are well cared for and quite friendly.

The White Tower.

Part of the original ruins.

Guards are stationed around the grounds. This one was outside the building housing the Crown Jewels.

Some of the people who work in the Tower complex live within it as well.

Inside the Bloody Tower, so named after the young sons of King Edward V were sent to the tower by their uncle, after their father died. The princes were never seen again. Two hundred years after their disappearance, skeletal remains of two children were found beneath a staircase. They are thought to be the young princes, murdered by their ambitious uncle, who then became king.

The Traitor’s Gate, off of the Thames River, through which prisoners could enter by ship.

We enjoyed the many exhibits, buildings and towers within the castle, walking the battlements first, and then exploring from the ground.

I learned about the history of London’s monarchy and the many people who spent time as prisoners in the tower or who were executed there. I discovered Royal Beasts were kept on site until the London zoo opened in 1828.

The only area we didn’t get to see was the Torture Exhibit, which was closed for maintenance. Overall, this tour was a delightful surprise that we all enjoyed.

Because of the time we spent at the Tower of London, we chose not to do the hop on/hop off bus. With stops at King’s Crossing Station, and the Harry Potter store there, and Piccadilly Square, by way of the Underground, we felt we had seen all we hoped to in London.

It is packing time. Tomorrow we fly out of London, homeward bound. What an amazing trip with my mom, sisters and niece. We will be discussing this adventure for months to come. I am so grateful for this trip and for the trip to Italy with my grandson and daughter earlier in the year. Traveling is rapidly becoming a passion for me.

Where will I wander next?

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.

London Sights

Today our little band of traveling companions arrived in London, England by way of a train. This truly has been a planes, train and automobile kind of trip, with traveling by bus and on foot thrown into the mix as well. I have never been to London, except for a layover in Heathrow Airport last May, en route to Rome. I have been excited to see beyond the airport!

We pre-booked a Jack the Ripper Tour, aboard one of London’s iconic red double decker buses, that started at 7:00 this evening. What we didn’t realize was that in the process of driving to our starting point for the tour, we would get sneak peeks at some of this sprawling city’s most famous landmarks.

Sitting up top on the double decker tour bus.

Our phenomenal tour guide, Alan.

Westminster Abbey with a rainbow arcing behind it.

Big Ben, in the process of being repaired. It’s not really leaning. The camera angle makes it appear so.

The London Eye

The tour became a walking tour, once we reached Old London.

The overcast night and the narrow alleyways lent an eerie quality to a tour that focused on London’s most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper.

Some parts of Old London have not changed much since the time of Jack the Ripper.

Although not connected to Jack the Ripper, we visited this memorial to Scottish hero William Wallace, who was executed in London near this spot.

The final stop on the tour…a pub that honors the famous literary detective, Sherlock Holmes.

This was a fun night. Not only did we see well known London sights, we also heard brief histories and interesting stories around them. A tour is only as good as the guide who leads it, and we had an excellent tour guide. He knew his history, of course. But what delighted our group was his sense of humor.

Jack the Ripper was a historical figure who committed heinous crimes against prostitutes in 1888. Although there has been much speculation about the identity of the killer, the crime has never been solved. And while the crimes were gruesome, Alan presented the facts without trying to shock or disturb us. I felt compassion for the women who died and appreciation for the way in which the tour was handled.

The absolute best part of the Jack the Ripper Tour was walking through Old London, in the company of my family, other interested people and a charming and knowledgeable Englishman, and imagining what it looked like back then. I’d highly recommend the tour.

We have decided to sleep in a bit later in the morning, as we have had many late nights and very early mornings. Then we have two full days remaining to explore London. I’m excited to see what we discover!

People Make Glasgow

In the morning we catch a train to London. We are concluding the Scotland portion of our girls’ trip with an overnight stay in Glasgow. Most of the day was spent in the car, traveling south from Isle of Skye through the Highlands, arriving in the busy city mid afternoon. By the time we had lunch and headed out into the rain to sightsee, the day was fading.

No worries. We made the most of our time in Glasgow.

There was no time for the hop on/hop off bus. Instead we took a cab to the one site we all wanted to see…the Glasgow Cathedral and its gothic looking cemetery known as the Necropolis…the City of the Dead.

We barely made it in time for a quick tour of the cathedral. It is a beautiful Scottish gothic style structure, dedicated in 1136. There are catacombs beneath the upper cathedral that we walked through quietly. The kirk survived the medieval period intact and services are still held here.

Glasgow Cathedral.

The cathedral interior.

The catacombs in the lower chapel.

The Necropolis, established in 1832, rises up on a hill behind the cathedral. More than fifty thousand of Glasgow’s nobility and wealthy are buried in this Victorian cemetery, although there are only about 3500 monuments.

It was an amazing experience, walking through the Necropolis. The ancient structures, ranging in size from small headstones to huge majestic buildings and pillars, create a landscape that could be a scene from Phantom of the Opera or the Addams’ Family. The steady rain did not slow our exploration of this fascinating historical place, and we chose it as our group photo location.

We called another cab to take us to Buchanan Street, off of George Square, where we had a fun dinner and a drink to end our day and our stay in this beautiful country. And finally, we took a cab back to our hotel.

There was not time for more sightseeing or shopping. But what struck me today was how friendly the people of Glasgow are, and indeed, the people in all of Scotland. We asked our cab drivers what they liked about living in Glasgow…and they agreed that it is the people that make this bustling city what it is.

Our friendly and attentive waiter, Scott, slid into the booth with us for a few minutes, and shared his passion about his country and its people. We appreciated his remarks and his obvious love for Scotland, a love we share. The people here are good hearted and hard working, with cheerful dispositions. Some have a dry wit and some cracked us up with their amusing antics.

It was a wonderful way to end our stay in Scotland, being reminded that as gorgeous as the landscapes are in this country, it is the people who make this country such a joy to visit, play in and explore. Walking along Buchanan Street, I noticed the flags hanging on either side. I smiled in agreement. The people do make Glasgow. The people make Scotland.

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.

A Magical Day in Scotland

Although every day of travel holds magical qualities and opportunities, today on the sixth day of our adventure, the Divine was very much present, delighting us with unexpected surprises.

Journey along with us…

Our day began in high adventure mode. We rented a car. My sister Debbie was the designated driver. Perhaps because she is left handed…or perhaps because she has a natural ability to adapt quickly…Debbie amazed me with her skills at navigating through busy Edinburgh traffic and around countless round-a-bouts, all while driving on the opposite side of the road than is customary in the US! With Linda as her co-pilot and Ashley perched in the middle of the back seat offering encouragement and an occasional Left…Left, we safely arrived in the little town of Lauder in the Scottish borders.

We were excited to tour the Thirlestane Castle near Lauder. This residential castle is still home to distant, distant cousins. My roots are here. The Lauderdales of American came from the Maitland Clan. To be on the grounds and within the castle was deeply meaningful to me.

And here is where the magic began. When I visited the castle three years ago, photography was not allowed within the castle. I was disappointed but respectful of that rule. Today I noticed the signs inside had changed to No Flash Photography Allowed. No flash photography. I asked our kind tour guide and he confirmed that photos taken without flash were allowed. We promptly returned to the first room in the castle and began again, snapping pics.

How incredible to walk through this beautiful massive structure, learning about our ancestors, including the powerful Duke of Lauderdale, and seeing rooms where time appeared to have stopped. It was an enchanting couple of hours. We met more Joplin Lauderdales at Thirlestane, Bruce and Lori, who are visiting Scotland as well this week. Bruce is a cousin, sharing a common ancestor with my sisters and me, four generations back. We enjoyed walking through our ancestral home together and then having afternoon tea in the castle.

After we left the village of Lauder, we headed north past Edinburgh, our destination the town of Stirling, which lies on the edge of the Highlands. We had no plans, beyond reaching Stirling before dark. Debbie was driving successfully, using the car’s built in GPS system. In the quiet of the car, Debbie suddenly expressed concern that the GPS had malfunctioned and we were no longer on the correct route.

This is where the fun began!

Google photo

Sometimes it is when we toss the map away, or in this case, lose accurate GPS readings, that we find what we are looking for. I have had a list of Scottish sites I want to see since my last visit to Scotland, things I did not see or get to do my first time here. Being allowed to take pics inside the castle was one. My niece Ashley has a similar list.

In rapid order this afternoon, by Divine appointment I believe, my niece and I got to scratch these unexpected surprises off of our lists:

• The Firth of Forth Bridges – the Forth is an estuary of rivers, including the Forth, that converge and flow into the North Sea. Ive seen photos of the famous bridges that span the Forth, including the newly completed Queensferry Crossing, but I have not seen the bridges up close. Today we crossed the Forth, twice, as we attempted to correct navigation! The bridges are stunning.

• The Kingdom of Fife – doing a U turn to head back across the Forth placed us in the Kingdom of Fife, which is a real place. Part of Scotland, Fife was once a major Pict Kingdom and the ancestral home to many Scottish monarchs. I can now say that I have been there!

Google photo

• The Kelpies – these mythological water beasts represent the powerful lineage of Scotland’s heavy horses in economy and industry. Standing 100 feet tall, the modern sculpture display, created by Andy Scott, was opened to the public in 2014. I did not get to see the Kelpies when I visited that year. In fact, I didn’t know where they were located. As she drove on our new route, Debbie exclaimed What’s that coming toward us? I looked up in alarm, expecting to see an out of control bus careening toward us. Instead, the majestic kelpies appeared above the treetops! Ashley and I screamed with excitement. We couldn’t believe it as we drove right by. How beautiful the sculptures were.

• The Wallace Monument – we knew the monument, a memorial to Scottish hero William Wallace, was located somewhere in the general area of Stirling. As we approached our hotel, the monument rose from the trees nearby, an impressive tower 220 feet tall. I can see the monument from my hotel window, lit against a dark sky.

Google photo

What a special day this has been, that unfolded entirely as it would. We have simply traveled the road that appeared before us. If the GPS had not changed our course in the car, we would have missed most of these treasures, these desires that Ashley and I carry on mental bucket lists. We weren’t able to get good photos, but we didn’t need to. We saw them.

I love these Divine nudges and surprises. With an open heart and open mind, I can receive without expectation or demand. The gifts are freely given, with a playful spirit that moves me deeply and brings me joy.

I am reveling in this travel adventure, this magical journey. I wonder what lies just around the river bend or beyond the turn in the road or over the craggy mountain? Anticipation courses warmly through my veins.

Exploring Edinburgh Castle

The focus of our second, and final, day in Edinburgh was the castle perched solidly atop volcanic rock, high above the sprawling city. The weather was decidedly Scottish…cool and drizzly, with periods of light rain. We weren’t deterred. Donning hoodie jackets over warm layers, we set out on the day’s adventures.

Here are the highlights of our explorations:

Edinburgh Castle has existed in varying degrees of size and fortification since the second century AD. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest surviving structure in the castle complex, and also the oldest in Edinburgh. Most of the other buildings have been destroyed during bombardments and rebuilt.

Our tour guide, Robby, was knowledgeable and guided us expertly around the castle grounds, telling stories and sharing interesting facts.

Looking out over the battlements, toward the Firth of Forth. The castle is at the top of the Royal Mile, in the heart of the Old City. Edinburgh’s New City stretches out toward the water.

And looking to the west.

The stone structures comprising the castle are beautiful. The castle grounds spiral upward by way of cobbled courtyards and streets. The former royal residences are at the peak, where they were most protected. Today the castle house’s numerous museums and exhibitions and it is one of the most visited sites in the world.

The Great Hall.

The Royal dining room, and a sculpture representing the crowning of Robert the Bruce, located in an alcove off of the room containing the Crown Jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny. Photos were not allowed in the Crown Jewels room.

I love the Stone of Destiny, a slab of ordinary looking stone that the kings of Scotland were crowned upon. King Edward I of England took the stone, and for 700 years, it rested beneath the throne of the English monarchy. But it was officially returned to Scotland in 1996.

Group pic in front of the castle.

We walked through a stark recreation of the living conditions in the castle’s prison rooms, where prisoners of war were held. Americans ended up in here as well, when they were captured as enemies against Great Britain. The rooms, while fascinating to explore, held a troubled energy that empathetically created discomfort in my chest. We viewed the original wooden cell doors, where prisoners had scratched words of hope and detailed works of art, including an American flag.

We enjoyed a light lunch in the castle’s tea room, and later shopping on the Royal Mile. However, most of our day was spent within the castle walls, looking, listening, learning. This was not just a tourist stop for us. The history here is part of our history as well.

The Scots are my people. This is my land. My heart dwells here in joy and peace, and embedded in my DNA are characteristics that sprang from this rich and fertile land. I’ve loved every moment spent in Edinburgh.

Tomorrow we head south to Lauder, in the Borders. This area of Scotland has great significance for my family. I am looking forward to visiting Thirlestane Castle again and

sharing that journey with my mom, sisters and niece.

Alexander McCall Smith wrote about Edinburgh: “This is a city of shifting light, of changing sky, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.”

I so agree. I love this city. My heart has been pierced by its beauty and energy. Edinburgh, I will be back.

Edinburgh Says Welcome Back

I first visited this amazing Scottish city in 2014. I’ve dreamed of returning since the moment my airplane lifted into the skies above Edinburgh, homeward bound. What a powerful feeling of anticipation I experienced this morning as our small jet flew low over the Scottish countryside, in preparation for landing.

Edinburgh feels like coming home to me.

We are staying in a wonderful 2 bedroom apartment in the center of old Edinburgh. As we waited for our quarters to be ready, we explored the neighborhoods nearby, found a delightful little cafe for lunch, and eventually ended up touring the city in our favorite way on a hop on/hop off bus.

Here are highlights of the day:

This huge sign greeted us as we exited the Edinburgh airport, perfectly expressing the way I feel. In ways I can’t fully explain, Scotland feels like home to me. Although my ancestors came from the Scottish Borders south of the city, and I love that region as well, Edinburgh calls to me like no other place on earth. It is my favorite city.

As I was looking for a quote about Edinburgh that I only half remembered, I came across another one that expresses my sentiments as well: “I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways I am coming home.” What surprised me was who said those words…the late actor, Alan Rickman, who has been foundational to my year of inspiration. I should have known he had a connection to Edinburgh as well.

The ancient Edinburgh Castle sits high atop a craggy hill, overlooking the city. We will visit this fortress in the morning.

Beautiful architecture throughout the city, in both the old side and the new side, which is still more than 700 years old.

One of the places all of us wanted to see was the site of the Greyfriars Bobby statue. Bobby was a wee terrier whose owner passed away after a sudden illness. For 14 years, the faithful dog stayed near his owner’s grave in the cemetery. People cared for him, providing food and shelter. When the loyal pup died of old age, he was buried just inside the graveyard gate, near his human.

We toured the Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard as well. This old cemetery has a very gothic look, with headstones and memorials dating back to the 1500s. The overcast day created a gloomy atmosphere that was perfect for our exploration. Bobby’s grave is marked by a headstone that matches his owner’s, John Gray.

We completed our first day in Scotland with a delicious dinner at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. Debbie and Linda tried haggis for the first time. Mom and I had a veggie burger that was awesome. And I got to enjoy a Scottish cider called Thistly Cross. This light and refreshing hard cider has simple ingredients and no added sugar.

It was an enchanting day, full of glad remembrances and happy reunions as I recognized landmarks from my previous trip. I dearly love this city. The energy is lively, uplifting and intriguing. My heart beats in sync with the rhythms of Auld Reekie, so named for the smoke that used to rise from the cottages.

Riding in the top deck of our tour bus, I couldn’t help but notice bright yellow flags along a street. Welcome Back they declared. Thank you, I silently answered. I am so happy to be back.

Irish Blessings

After a long and restorative sleep, I spent the day exploring Dublin with my traveling companions. This international girls’ trip is proving to be extraordinary. We are enjoying this time of being together and learning new things.

Making use of the convenient hop on/hop off tour bus, we wound through the city again, hopping off at various locations to further our knowledge and appreciation of Ireland’s capital city.

Here are highlights of our fun day:

We crossed a bridge over the River Liffey, which winds through Dublin to empty into the bay.

One of the most well known pubs in Dublin, The Temple Bar. It was too crowded inside to dine there but a least we found it! I enjoyed wearing my No Regrets t shirt from Solgave Clothing in Dublin today.

People are very friendly here!

Linda found her leprechaun!

We had a wonderful lunch at Quays. Mom and I have not had any problems eating plant based, I’m happy to say! We both enjoyed veggies and rice and a hot peppermint tea.

I LOVED St Stephen’s Green, a 22 acre park in the center of Dublin. My gardener’s heart was right at home here as we wandered the paths through this beautiful green space.

The day’s selfie was taken on the stone bridge in St Stephens Green. This became a daily tradition that I started when Dayan, Elissa and I traveled to Italy earlier in the year. I change my Facebook profile pic and my cover photo everyday, by capturing a snapshot of the day. With five of us to get in the photo, we are relying on the kindness of strangers to take a pic for us!

Busy Grafton Street and the area surrounding it is the shopping center of the city. We loved the lively energy here as we joined thousands of other shoppers and tourists wandering around.

I love Dublin’s colorful front doors!

More sad sculptures depicting the Irish Potato Famine.

We had an incredible day. There was more that we wanted to do and see, however we simply ran out of time. Tomorrow we fly out of Dublin, and land in Edinburgh.

There is no other possible decision to make about it…we must plan another trip to Ireland! May the road rise up to meet us…and may the journey lead us back to Ireland.

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!