Tag Archives: United Kingdom Travel


So here is Part 2 of Ireland. So much of this country to see, and I have only just tipped the iceberg. My daughter and I had just 13 days. I operate under a certain rule when I travel. I never try to bite off more than I can chew so to speak. If I do, I fear that I lose the allure and the discoveries that are waiting for me every place I go. There were plenty of travel itineraries available on the internet suggesting tours that circle the entire country in 13 days time. The entire country in 13 days!  How would you possibly see one solitary place in its entire measure when traveling 32000 square miles in only 13 days? I believe you have to be wise about your time, not allocating so many of your precious few hours to the transportation alone that is surely required to get from one city to another. This alone robs you of the joy of just being in one place long enough to really get a feel for its history, the stories, and the people who call it home. So we did not venture North at all. We chose to explore the southern route of Ireland on our first visit for the better part of 8 days, culminating in only 4 1/2 days in Dublin, the capital city of the Republic of Ireland. 

In Dublin, we stayed at The Inn on the Liffey, (The Liffey is the river that flows through the centre of Dublin). I would highly recommend this wonderful place in the winter. The summer made it quite a difficult location because it was very noisy on the sidewalks below and the busy street. Our room was situated directly above that street. Moreover, since there is no air conditioning, and no fans were provided, (I asked), one has to keep the windows open in the summer or one will overheat very quickly. This means the noise can seriously hamper one’s sleep.  I suspect this could be entirely different in the winter, since you will ostensibly have the window closed without the concern of overheating. Otherwise, the breakfast is terrific, and the desk is 24/7. Security was great and everyone super friendly. And the location was truly fabulous.

We took an inexpensive uber taxi from the airport to our inn after turning in that vexing rental car.  Normal Uber service is not available in Dublin. They have traditional taxis or the “Uber Taxi.” We did the latter on two occasions, using the Uber app, one arriving at our hotel, and the other leaving our hotel, and was quite satisfied with the service. The inn staff also offered to telephone a taxi on our behalf, and I thought that was quite nice. 

Our first evening we walked over to Temple Street for a quick look around and a  bite to eat. It is the home of the famed Temple Bar and the area itself is teaming with tourists and locals alike. There is plenty of cobblestone streets in the area to satisfy your inner romantic wayfarer. It is a colorful and eclectic area packed with good food, live music, and interestingly (at least in the summer) beautiful flowers which adorn the roof edges of the buildings. 

The Temple Bar Area 

Day 2: We fell asleep (finally) anxious for our first full day in Dublin. After a lovely breakfast in a fully sun lit breakfast room, Katie and I set out for our first spot on our self-made itinerary.  The Book of Kells is located inside the insanely beautiful library at Trinity College.  We purchased our tour for the Book of Kells online when planning our trip months ahead, which I highly recommend doing. But the campus tour must be purchased just across the courtyard from the Book of Kells Library on the day you would like to tour. This was easy even in July. We did so as soon as we finished our tour of the library. And the campus tour is a nice accompaniment to the library tour.  The Book of Kells is a famed exhibit, a copy of the four gospels in Latin which was written around 800 AD. It is also accompanied by two pocket gospels. The library itself is very “Harry Potterish,” (sorry for the trite description but so true), and is simply gorgeous inside.

After refueling ourselves with nourishment and coffee (always), we decided to take on Dublin Christ Church Cathedral and the adjoining Dublinia Museum in the afternoon. Christ Church Cathedral is Dublin’s oldest building and also a place of pilgrimage for nearly 1000 years. It is home to a 12th century crypt one of the oldest and largest in Britain and Ireland. The cathedral was founded in 1030 by a Norse King of Dublin by name of Sitriuc. It became part of the Irish Church in 1152 and was later led by the patron saint of Dublin, Laurence O’Toole. We took the tour, including the bell tower and were so pleased to have done so! It’s a very informative tour that takes you through the cathedral which is very beautiful,  and then you go up 84 very tiny curved steps in a narrow passage to the bell tower, inside a room where all the bell ropes are located. We were allowed to ring one of three bells.

The museum focuses on the Viking and Medieval history of the city.  It is located in a part of the Christ Church Cathedral known as the Synod hall.  The two are connected by a really cool Medieval corridor. We thoroughly enjoyed the Dublinia because it covered the Viking origins of the city, their culture and character; then the Medieval era of the city which included the era of the Black Plague, a disease that ravished all of Europe killing 30% of the entire population in less than two years. In Dublin alone, from July 1348 to Christmas of that same year, 14000 people died from this plague. Before leaving Dublinia, don’t forget to climb St. Michael’s Tower, an original medieval tower. It is a 96 step climb to the top, where you can see spectacular views of the city.

Laugh if you will; it was a blast. 

Day 3: Kilmainham Gaol (prison) opened in 1796 as the new County Gaol for Dublin. It closed its doors for good in 1924. Our tour of this place was off the chart. The youngest prisoner held here was a boy of 5 years old, held for 48 hours for begging. Another of my favorite, but very sad stories: (There are hundreds) James Connolly and Patrick Pearse were the leaders of the Easter Uprising of April 24, 1916, the Monday after Easter, The Irish patriots held out for about a week. This as WWI raged on about them as well. Seven leaders of the rising proclaimed an Irish Republic. All seven of the signers were executed along with eight others, including Connolly and Pearse. Another one was Joseph Plunkett who married his wife, Grace Gifford Plunkett, in the prison and had 10 minutes with her under guard prior to his execution. They simply sat silently together the entire 10 minutes. Though the rebels surrendered and 14 (according to our tour guide) of their leaders were executed, the 1916 Rising had a huge effect. It became the first stage in a war of independence from Great Britain that resulted in the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922 and, ultimately, the formal declaration of an Irish Republic in 1949. Tip: We definitely needed a lot more time here. We  arranged our time adequately for touring the prison itself, but allowed no extra time for the extensive museum floors attached to the prison or the nearby Royal Hospital Kilmainham. I would most assuredly devote a whole day to this area of Dublin which is just a short bus ride from Dublin Center.

Nonetheless, upon returning to Dublin Centre, we made our way a lovely little restaurant called “Bite of Life,” a delicious and quaint cafe a mere 2 minute walk from our next destination: St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  I had the  Brie, Ham, and Cranberry Sauce Sandwich with a cucumber and carrot salad, both which left my taste buds fully satisfied. We were ready for St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 

This cathedral dates from 1220 to the present. It has taken many hits over the years by various kings, but sustained its elegance nevertheless. On the day we were there a choir from Minneapolis was performing and their voices and the acoustics in the cathedral were splendid. Also Jonathon Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels) was the Dean of the church from 1713 until his death in 1745.  His is a grand exhibit in this cathedral. There is also an excellent park adjacent to the cathedral for catching some Z’s or just some downtime on a clear, warm day.

Dublin Castle.  This is really Dublin Palace. But its origins are a castle fortification from the Viking Ages, with a castle being built here by King John of England in 1204. Most of the medieval castle is gone except for the one remaining tower and foundation ruins. In the 18th century, a palace was built in its place.  “From 1204 until 1922 it was the seat of English, and later British rule in Ireland. During that time, it served principally as a residence for the British monarch’s Irish representative, the Viceroy of Ireland, and as a ceremonial and administrative centre. The Castle was originally developed as a medieval fortress under the orders of King John of England. It had four corner towers linked by high curtain walls and was built around a large central enclosure. Constructed on elevated ground once occupied by an earlier Viking settlement, the old Castle stood approximately on the site of the present Upper Castle Yard. It remained largely intact until April 1684, when a major fire caused severe damage to much of the building. Despite the extent of the fire, parts of the medieval and Viking structures survived and can still be explored by visitors today.” Source: Dublin Castle.ie  You  know, some people wonder “Judy don’t you ever tire of cathedrals and castles and cobblestone?”  Nope!  Do the guided tour because otherwise you will not see the Viking settlement ruins under the castle.  And furthermore, literally we stood over the Poddle River (that indeed flows into the River Liffey) which used to run all above ground, but diverted years ago for fortification purposes.

Dublin Castle

Day 4: St Michans Church. St Michans Church was largely rebuilt in 1686 on the site of an 11th century Hiberno-Viking church, the façade of this church hides a more gloomy interior. Down in its vaults lie a slew bodies that have barely decomposed because of the dry atmosphere created by the church’s magnesian limestone walls. Their wooden caskets, however, have cracked open. Inside are the preserved bodies, complete with skin and strands of hair and fingernails. I’m not posting pics of the actual corpses because our guide asked us not to. This place was fascinating!!  Source: @ Dublin, Ireland  Our guide was wonderful. Just show up when they open. You do not need to buy your tickets ahead of time. This is one of those hidden gems.

After a perfectly creepy, but fascinating time in the St. Michan’s crypts, we moved onto The Dublin Writer’s museum. So being that Katie and I are both writers, when we started planning our trip to Dublin, it was with pleasant surprise we discovered what a historical literary giant this place is. What an added bonus. This museum occupies an original 18th-century house, with original ceilings and woodwork, the whole shebang. Swift and Sheridan, Shaw, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett, and Bram Stoker are among those presented through their books, letters, portraits and personal items. Original publications of classics like James Joyce’s Ulysses, Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Yeats poetry, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Oscar Wilde’s plays, and the list goes on. What a big check mark on our bucket list.  Afterwards, we took a trip to the National Library of Ireland and walked through a fascinating and insightful exhibit all about the life of William Butler Yeats.

Day 5:  On our final full day we headed straight for the Chester Beatty Library.  This place is a fantastic collection of ancient text and scripture and books; maps; chronicles; devotionals; and the list goes on. Make sure you have at least 2 or 3 hours to spend here. It is packed with some of the oldest known copies of parts of the bible, including letters of Paul the Apostle from the New Testament, not to mention ancient copies of the Torah, from the Old Testament. It is free to the public. They just ask for a 5 euro donation, but you’ll want to give more probably. Beatty was actually an American. He received his mining engineering degree from Columbia University and worked his way up to being a mining magnate, consultant and expert in CO. His wife died after only 11 years of marriage, and he moved to London where he started his own consulting business. He remarried and was an avid collector. He began to amass a huge amount of ancient literature, including some of the oldest known copies in existence of the Pauline epistles of the bible. So take your time going though this. Also he collected ancient texts, scrolls and literature from other religions besides Christianity and as well books from all genres spanning literally 1000s of years. Around 1950 he moved to Dublin. Upon Beatty’s death in 1968, the collection was bequeathed to a trust for the benefit of the public. His priceless collection lives on as a celebration of the spirit and generosity of Chester Beatty. I was very excited we were allowed to take pics, minus the flash. So rest assured, I didn’t break any rules.

You might be wondering with all of these touristy sites and historical venues we visit, do we ever shop or meander? The answer is, “Yes, a little bit and a lot.”  We certainly did find ourselves over at St. Stephen’s Green for shopping and all of that. But I guess it is true that shopping is never high on our itinerary.  We also had a delicious “fancy” dinner one night at FX Buckley’s. But as for the meandering, one of my favorite things to do when I travel is write letters and post cards to friends and family at breakfast. I love the whole sharing aspect of travel. I have no intention of keeping it all to myself. And all in all, we try to take time to drink coffee slowly, window shop and cafe sit while people watching, along with all the crazy incredible sites we want to see. And of course it is never enough time, but then again, that always keeps you coming back for more.

London For Beginners

Recently I did a Paris Travel Blog, and though I have frequented Paris many more times than London, still I wanted to make London my next featured European City in this travel blogging sequence. I have been to London three times, the most recent visits being July 2015 with my daughter Shelby in honor of her high school graduation, and with my daughter Katie Ann in July, 2018 for a much shorter stint. Shelby’s favorite European city is without a doubt London. And I can see why. The shows at the West End and all around the city are spectacular. And it’s just dang fun to roam the streets of London while recalling our own American roots. We declared our independence from this nation in 1776 and much blood and tears were to be lost in the ensuing battle. But we grew to be strong allies in both of the great wars and since. My favorite WWII leader of all time perhaps is Winston Churchill who was the Prime Minister of Great Britain during WWII. Perhaps it is with his memory and a thankful heart that I write this blog about a city that continues to beckon us over the Atlantic Ocean and across the English Channel to enjoy all that this island country has to offer. I love traveling to London, and in the eternal words of Winston Churchill, I will Never! Never! Quit!

1 Fat Bike Tours (AGAIN!) Each time I have done this tour in Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and London, I have never ever been disappointed. Shelby and I did the Royal London Tour. There is also the Thames River tour which I am eager to conquer on our next trip! The guides are usually extraordinary, funny, and love their jobs which translates to fun for us. IMG_0947 IMG_1050IMG_1035

2. Shakespeare Globe Theatre is a reconstruction of the first Globe Theatre in which Shakespeare worked. The original location is only about 200 meters from the current location and is marked with a plaque and information placards. It is an open air theatre. Theatre performance season is from mid-April to mid-October. We did not watch a performance there but thoroughly enjoyed the tour.


3. Churchill War Rooms was one of my absolutely favorite sites in London. I am a huge WWII buff. I love history, and I appreciate its place in my history, and I love to share it. One of the best things about living in Europe for 4 years was being able to discover and uncover so many facts about WWII and how our freedom was preserved in that time. Winston Churchill’s war rooms, essentially a bunker, lies under the street of Westminster and contains both the Cabinet War rooms that protected the staff and secrets of Britain’s’ government during the war, as well as a permanent museum on the life and legacy of Winston Churchill. IMG_5740IMG_5744IMG_5734IMG_5676IMG_5618

4. Imperial War Museum. And don’t forget the IWM which tells the stories of people’s experience of modern war dating from WWI to preset conflicts.

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5. Southwark Borough is my favorite Borough in London. It has plenty of cobblestone paved pedestrian walkways, open markets, a beautiful must see cathedral and the famed Clinks Prison. My girls loved touring the prison and seeing all the ghoulish forms of medieval torture from back in the day. Southwark is both beautiful and charming. Don’t miss this London gem when you visit.
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6. Westminster Abbey is certainly known for its Royal weddings of course, but it has also been the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and British monarchs beginning in 1066 when Harold Godwinson and William the Conqueror were crowned. Among cathedrals and churches I have toured in Europe, Westminster is not the most stunning, but certainly it is lovely and the history as usual is incredible. Located just at the North end of Westminster is Big Ben, the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock whose clock tower was completed in 1859. Unlike its portrayal in Chevy Chase’s movie European Vacation, there is no roundabout at Big Ben’s location. In fact it sits on the Thames River and the Westminster Bridge. It is a beautiful place for photo shoots as well.
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7. Tower Bridge is often mistaken for the London Bridge. Ironically, London Bridge is just an obscure bridge crossing the Thames. On the other hand, Tower Bridge is anything but obscure. You can’t miss it. It is large and looming over the river adjacent to “The Tower of London,” (Number 8 on this list). Tower Bridge was built between 1886-1894. It consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways. It is a suspension and a draw bridge. It is freely accessible to both pedestrians and cars. There is also an exhibition housed in the bridge’s twin towers, the high level walkways, and the Victorian engine rooms.
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8. The London Tower is not a bridge. It is essentially a fortress. The oldest part of London Tower is the White Tower, a castle that was built to keep the Londoners in fear and under control as well as to deter foreign invaders. Henry VIII can be found in the history of this tower, and his legacy and harsh reputation still echoes the great rooms. Many prisoners were tortured and killed here in this tower, not the least of which was one of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn. Also inside the Tower of London, tour the Fortress along the wall walk and find the battle placements. The Crown Jewels are also housed in the Tower of London. There is a fun group called “The Beefeaters” who do daily tours at the Tower of London. We were a part of that group, but it was so big, we had a difficult time hearing the guide. We did a self tour of the Tower and its grounds, with book in hand and headphones where they were available, and found this to be sufficient. I have heard the Beefeaters tour is a lot of fun. I encourage you to do it IF it is not a busy day when you visit.
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9. Covent Gardens is a lovely little cove Shelby and I ran upon while in London on our most recent visit in June, 2015. We were on our way to watch the show Matilda, and wondered into this area. It is just one of those places you are so excited that you found. Visit. Grab a table, have a coffee and rest your feet.
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10. St Paul’s Cathedral is one of my top three favorite cathedrals in all of Europe. It is simply stunning. Be sure to check the opening hours before you make your trip to London. You don’t want to miss visiting and touring this historical cathedral and see its famous dome. If you make it all the way to the top-level of the cathedral, the views are unbelievable. The climb to the top though is always the best part. Just ask my kids!
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11. If you have avid Harry Potter fans in your household like I do, a visit to London will surely include one of the many Potter tours available. We did an easy walking tour. Here are just a few pics from that tour, including Platform 9 3/4 as well as Harry’s London School. 57 58 59 IMG_5909 IMG_5857

12. London Shows. Well it goes without saying if you visit NYC, you really should take in a Broadway Show. Well, the same is true of London. If you visit London, be sure to take in a show on the West End or in a number of other areas of the city. My personal favorite is Les Miserables. It truly moved me emotionally. Bring your box of Kleenex. We have also seen Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Matilda, and finally McQueen. So many shows to choose from and so many genre. And tickets are usually very reasonably priced unless you are trying to get the best seats in the house.
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13. London Parks are another must see and “must stay and relax in” place to go in London. The parks are absolutely lush and it would take a week alone to get through all of them. Some of our favorites are Hyde, St. James, and Kensington Park. <ahref=”https: travelingwithjudy.com=”” wp-content=”” uploads=”” 2016=”” 05=”” 7-3.jpg”=””>7 9 11 14 15 19 20 21 10 12 14 IMG_1071</ahref=”https:>

14. Fortnum & Mason Grocers & Hamleys Toy Store are two completely different places in London but are both famous and fun. Fortnum and Masons is a specialty grocery store which takes the word specially to a new level. Hamleys Toy Store of course is in the busy and famous shopping district of London. Think the intersection of Oxford and Regents Streets. Be prepared for crowds in this latter district. It’s sort of fun to say you’ve been to Hamleys even if you know you’ll never go back. Fortnum and Mason is just really cool, beautiful and fun to peruse. And sure you can buy some pretty delicious items as well.
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15. London fun. Trafalgar Square; The Vista at the Trafalgar Hotel, Skyview restaurant overlooking Trafalgar Square is a blast. And don’t forget Buckingham Palace. It is well worth the money for the tour. BUT be sure to buy your tickets online ahead of time. That is paramount. Also, a trip to Hillsong church for worship service will refresh you and satisfy your soul. What a wonderful treat. Enjoy the WWI and WWII memorials as well as that of Florence Nightingale. I know that many of you have visited London as well and would love to share your favorite sites AND tips. Please leave comments galore to that end. The fun is endless in this iconic city. Enjoy it and go back. Never. Never. Quit Going back!
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