David R. Miller


David R. Miller

Europe » Ireland » County Kerry » Killarney September 3rd 2019

Buffet breakfast at the hotel. In the category of combinations you never thought of, I have a caramel fudge-flavoured yoghurt. It's yet another drizzly day, unfortunately. We reach Limerick, Tony’s home town. Our first stop is alongside the Shannon River to see the Treaty Stone, where reputedly the treaty that ended the war between the Irish and William of Orange was signed in 1691. Under the terms, a promise was made to respect Catholicism, but the treaty was rejected by both the English and Irish Parliaments and its terms were ignored. Thus Limerick became known as The City of the Broken Treaty. We cross the river and stop on the other side of the Shannon, directly across from the Treaty Stone. We descend and have the opportunity for a quick visit to St. John’s Castle (1210) ... read more
Thatch-roof homes
Monument to Irish Civil War Massacre
The challenge of driving a coach on some Irish roads

Europe » Ireland » County Clare » Bunratty September 2nd 2019

Early departure from Westport after breakfast. It's yet another drizzly day, and the traffic is noticeably worse as parents drop off their kids for the first day of school. We are headed south toward Galway and eventually to the cliffs of Moher. En route, a number of interesting topics come up. One thing you can say about small Irish towns (and cities, too) is that they tend to be remarkably clean. The streets are mostly free of trash, cheery flower boxes abound, front yards and homes are well looked after, and graffiti is minimal. Part of it is cultural, in that the Irish have a tradition of taking pride in appearances. But Tony tells us there actually is a annual Tidy Town Competition, and it's taken very seriously. The subject of the bright coloured markings on ... read more
John Wayne and Naureen O'Hara
Cong Abbey
Lynch Castle

Europe » Ireland » County Mayo » Westport September 1st 2019

Breakfast at the hotel, à la carte in this establishment, then off to explore the Connemara peninsula. The terrain soon becomes quite rugged and mountainous. We are once again in bog territory on the Irish moors. The weather is unsettled; windy with brief downpours. One mountain in particular dominates the landscape. This is Croagh Patrick, where in July every year, thousands of Irish Catholics make a pilgrimage to the top on foot as a penitence. Tony gives us a history lesson on the Great Famine of 1845–52. The English version of this tragic episode is that a potato blight affected the Irish potato crop and caused widespread famine. This is in fact what I learned in school. Tony says that the potato blight was a factor but the real cause of the famine was excessive taxation ... read more
Walking the Doolough Valley
Kylemore Abbey
Scene from the walled garden at Kylemore Abbey

Europe » Ireland » County Mayo » Westport August 31st 2019

Buffet breakfast at hotel. There are a few headaches among the group this morning. On the coach and off we go. It is another drizzly day. Our first stop is Donegal. Here we visit the Irish House, a family business that specializes in Donegal Tweed, which is handcrafted from Irish wool and Merino wool using traditional methods. A young man, a 6th generation weaver, gives us a demonstration of the loom. I have seen such demonstrations before, but I think this young man is the faster I have every seen. While Violet examines the shop's wares, I strike out to see more of Donegal. Happily, the weather has cleared a bit, and the sun is trying to break through the clouds. Donegal is a beautiful town with several streets of small shops leading down to a ... read more
Street scene
Donegal Castle
Ceramic baskets from Belleek Pottery

Europe » Ireland » County Donegal » Donegal August 30th 2019

Up early because today we will cover a lot of ground. Buffet breakfast at the hotel and then on the coach, heading north. We drive through a sizeable town, Larne, then a series of smaller, extremely picturesque towns. Most of them have "bally" (town), "glen" (valley), "lough" (lake), or "castle" in their names. The weather is very changeable. Violent blasts of rain alternate with brief sunny periods. The force of the wind may be felt inside the coach. We take a detour to visit Glenariff Forest Park. This beautiful 1185-hectare park has several mountains and two small rivers that cascade through narrow gorges on their way to the sea. The coach climbs to the summit of a mountain where there are great views of the surrounding landscape. Walking trails lead off in several directions. And there's ... read more
Grey Squirrel hotline
House and rope bridge
Northern coast

Europe » United Kingdom » Northern Ireland » County Antrim » Belfast August 29th 2019

Up at 6:45. Another terrific buffet breakfast at the hotel. The hotel breakfasts are mostly in line with similar offerings around the world, but there are a few different things. "Black and white pudding" consists of hard salty cakes, some black, some white; not a favourite. "Scuffins" are a cross between scones and muffins, and they are delicious. The bread is fabulous. At the porridge station proudly stands a bottle of Bushmill's for garnishing your cereal. How civilized. We board the coach for a city tour of Belfast and meet our new driver, David. (Darius was assigned to another tour.) Our first stop is Belfast City Hall. This turns out to be the grandest, most opulent city hall I have ever seen. Built in 1906 to celebrate the city's new prosperity stemming from the industrial revolution, ... read more
Looking down the grand staircase
Stained-glass window
Mayor for a day!

Europe » United Kingdom » Northern Ireland » County Antrim » Belfast August 28th 2019

We're up at what the Irish call "half seven"; i.e., 7:30. Excellent buffet breakfast at the hotel, then on to the coach. (Tony is very insistent that we are riding on a coach, not a bus.) We met our driver, Darius, briefly yesterday. He's Polish and seems to enjoy our ability to carry out simple conversations in Polish. We head north, paralleling the Irish coast, although the sea is not often in sight. It's about 20ºC and overcast but the forecasted rain has happily not materialized. The Irish countryside is beautiful, a patchwork quilt of various shades of green that mark the boundaries between farms, crops, and mountainous areas. The rolling hills in the distance are reminiscent of the Gatineau. Stucco and brick houses predominant. Many of the homes boast lovingly planned and maintained gardens. Tony ... read more
Exhibit in D'Arcy McGee Museum
Irish countryside
Cemetery where St. Patrick is buried with town in distance

Europe » Ireland » County Dublin » Malahide August 27th 2019

We start our trip on a bit of a kerfuffle. Checking in online the night before, we discover that the extra-leg-room seats on the Toronto-Dublin leg that we had reserved and paid for back in April have disappeared. A call to Air Canada reveals the we were side-swiped by the Boeing Max 8 debacle. The plane had been changed from a Max 8 to an Airbus, which caused the seat reservations to evaporate. Why Air Canada couldn't have alerted us to this problem so we could have reacted earlier is a mystery to me. Anyway, the agent on the phone is able to assign us some other seats with extra leg room, although they are inferior in our opinion to what we had originally reserved. Bummer. At the Ottawa airport, we relate our sad story to ... read more
Guinness Truck

Europe » Netherlands » North Holland » Amsterdam June 20th 2018

Last day in Amsterdam and last day of this trip, as we leave tomorrow morning for home. Over breakfast, we decide what we want to do today. Violet is interested in a tulip museum and I was just reading about the area of Amsterdam known as Jordaan, close to the Anne Frank House. Serendipitously, that's where the tulip museum is, so that's our first destination for today. Alighting from the tram, we decide to explore Westerkerk, the huge church in the square near Anne Frank that we saw two days ago. To be truthful, I am lured in by beautiful organ music wafting out to the street. This is the largest Protestant church in the Netherlands, consecrated in 1631, and has the highest bell tower in the city. Inside it is very open and filled with ... read more
Tulip bulbs for sale
Another view of Jordaan

Europe » Netherlands » North Holland » Amsterdam June 19th 2018

Up at 8 am. Decent buffet breakfast at the hotel. Now, last night we had made reservations at the Van Gogh Museum for 11:45. That museum is located in the same museum quarter we visited yesterday. We decide to make our way there early and see what else we can see. It's a dreary day, so museums seem a sensible choice. Single tram stop and some walking. A word about bicycles in Amsterdam. As I may have said earlier, there are not only more bicycles than cars in Amsterdam, there are more bicycles than people. And bicycles appear to have the right of way over both pedestrians and motorized vehicles. Major streets have a bicycle lane in the middle of the sidewalk. Pedestrians are supposed to walk on either side and leave the centre free. This ... read more
Diamond-encrusted gorilla skull in the Diamond Museum
Entrance to Van Gogh Museum
Royal Concertgebouw

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