Part I – An overview of where we went and why. Details of our excursions will be in separate posts of Parts II and III.
Our trip planning started almost a year ago. That would be back in June during Casey’s first visit to San Diego. While I was showing her around, one of the major attractions I took her to was the Star of India, part of San Diego’s Maritime Museum.
As Casey explored below decks and read through the ships history, she discovered that the Star of India had been used to transport emigrants from Ireland to New Zealand. Hitting closer to home was the time frame the ship had been commissioned for these trips, which coincided with when Casey’s great grand parents had emigrated from Ireland.
Then, after a few more history panels, she discovered one showing the Star of India in dry dock in Lyttelton Harbour, the harbor town of Christchurch, where she grew up. In the background was the hill her great aunt (Casey’s grandmother’s sister) lived on.
Later that day, while sitting in our backyard, our discussion turned to Ireland as Casey excitedly told Sheryl about her discovery and that her great grand parents had likely emigrated on the Star of India. She also mentioned how Ireland had always been on her bucket list.
Sheryl and I had been to Ireland two years before and had often talked about wanting to go back.
Within minutes, and a lot of smiles, our trip to Ireland was planned for April of 2018. By August we and Casey had monitored airfares, booked our flights and, in September, we started planning the rest of our trip. By the time she visited again in December, everything was planned and booked and we started making never ending lists of what we wanted to see and do.
Our trip had us meeting in London on April 5th, then going on to Ireland the following day.
Sheryl and I would catch the daily British Airways non-stop flight from San Diego to Heathrow in London on the 4th, arriving at 3:30 pm London time the following afternoon. Casey’s journey would be a lot longer. She would fly from Blenheim to Auckland, then catch a flight to Singapore on the 4th. After a four and a half hour layover she would board another flight to London, arriving on the 5th around 6 am, London time.
All told, Casey would cover 24,500 air miles (returning to New Zealand via Shanghai) and we would log just under 11,000 air miles.
Late on the afternoon of the 5th we met up in the hotel, had dinner with the Hotel’s Pub Manager (a good friend) then, got a good night’s sleep. The following morning we hired a van to take us to London’s Euston Station where we boarded a train to Holyhead, England.
Our five hour train ride took us some 300 miles across England, up into Holyhead in Wales on England’s upper east coast. At Holyhead we boarded an Irish Line Ferry for the three and a half hour journey across the Irish Sea to Dublin.
It is here we must tell you that the term ferry is totally deceiving. The ferry is very little like a ferry and much more like a cruise ship. A cruse ship with two lounges (we splurged and sat in the first class lounge on the very top deck), two restaurants, a cafeteria, a theater, a giant kids play room, and one of the best gift shops we’ve ever seen. (And yes, we spent more than we should have on T-shirts, a new watch for Sheryl and trinkets.)
Upon arriving in Dublin we checked into our hotel, The North Star, a short walk from the center of Dublin and directly across the street from the Connolly Street Train Station. Intending to go to one of our favorite pubs, instead we wandered into McGettigans Cookhouse and Bar next to the hotel. In seconds, Sarah our bubbly waitperson, adopted us (and we her), and suggested what we should order. All of which turned out to be fantastic. Yip, another outstanding pub and another adopted waitperson. What can we say?
The next two days, the weekend, would be spent running around Dublin on the Hop-on-Hop-off buses to places on our must see list or just roaming the streets until we saw something that peeked our interest. On our list was a raft of book stores, interesting venues, and (of course) pubs from our last trip. (All to be covered in detail in the next posts. And yes, with pictures too!)
On Monday, Sheryl and I left Casey in Dublin to continue exploring while we took the train out of Heuston Station (Guess the Brits and Irish can’t agree on how to spell Heuston, or Euston?) to Waterford: An all day trip to the southern part of Ireland that included a tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory and a walking tour of the old Viking City of Waterford.
On Tuesday morning it was back to Heuston Station for all three of us, this time for an all day excursion to Connemara and Galway on Irelands west coast. This trip included a bus tour out of Galway to Connemara (where Casey’s great grandparents were from) then a walking tour of Galway, before heading back to Dublin.
Wednesday was taken up with a reserved personal tour of Dublin’s Kilmainham Goal, then a visit to the Dublin Writers Museum, where we found ourselves in the middle of a march for the homeless. That resulted in us having to recover in a favorite pub down on the Leffey River where, we ended up in the middle of a rowdy birthday party. (Yip, to be explained later.)
Thursday and we’re off on another train ride. This time out of Connolly Station (long walk across the street) to Belfast where we would spend the next two days. One day visiting the Giant’s Causeway and the second touring Belfast. Late Friday afternoon and it was back on the train for Dublin and our last night in Ireland.
Saturday morning we were off on the ferry for our Irish Sea crossing back to Holyhead. Here we would catch a train to Cowyn Bay then, four train changes and six hours later, we would arrive in Alnmouth where our friend Alicia had a taxi waiting to take us the 4.5 miles to Alnwick.
By the time we’d arrived in Alnwick (after 8 pm) everything was pretty much closed so we settled into our rooms at the B&B and pretty much died for the night. The following morning it was up and off to Barters Books down the road for a hearty English breakfast. Following breakfast we dropped in on Alicia at the Cookie Jar (a B&B where she is manager) and then walked over to Alnwick Castle, where we spent the rest of the day.
I should add here that by this time we had all come down with really bad colds. Sheryl and I were a few days ahead of Casey and we started talking about Sheryl and I eliminating touring London on our last two days. (It’s not like we’ve never been there before, although we can never get enough of our home away from home.)
In any case, our last day in Alnwick, Casey and I left Sheryl at the B&B and toured Alnwick Gardens and the Treehouse Restaurant.
On the way back we picked Sheryl up and wandered over to the pub next door to the B&B for our last night in Alnwick.
The following morning (Tuesday if you’ve lost track) we caught a ride from Alicia’s granny (There is a very funny story here that you will not want to miss in Part III) back to the train at Alnmouth.
From there it was another four hour train ride back to London’s Kings Cross Station. On the way, I called British Airways, changed our flight and as soon as we arrived we caught a taxi to Heathrow. Before Sheryl and I walked into security we each gave Casey a big hug and then left her on her own to tour London over the next two days.
In total we covered over 1,760 miles in England and Ireland, by bus, boat and mostly train, and Casey would add another 40 or so miles by bus and riverboat while in London.
As you’ll see in parts II and III, aside from all of us catching miserable colds at the very end, our trip was full of visits to wonderful places and we met some of the nicest people you could ever imagine. We also learned that the three of us, Sheryl, Casey and I, are not only compatible in almost every way possible, we also make wonderful travel partners.
Well, so much for my short overview. If you enjoyed this part, you’ll love parts II and III and our wonderful excursions around Ireland and England. And yes, there’ll be plenty of pub and food descriptions! Oh, and more pictures too.