Ireland, Wales and England - Week 15

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August 21st 2013
Published: August 21st 2013
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<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Day 98 – Dublin

We headed to Blarney Castle today to kiss the Blarney Stone. Apparently if you kiss the stone you will get the gift of the gab. We lined up for a while, hung upside down and kissed the wall. Can’t say I’m any more talkative than usual.

We continued onto Dublin and had dinner and a show. The show was a traditional Irish performance with a band and dancers. The band was great and played some Irish classics. The dancers were pretty good too. There were only five of them and a few of them had performed professionally in things like Riverdance. I have no idea how they can move their feet so fast.

<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Day 99 – Dublin

So much walking today. I walked all over town just shopping and having a browse. I got some extra piercings in my ear (just wait til mum reads that one) and then headed off to the Guinness Factory for our group tour. I was walking around in circles for a while until I spotted some other group members and followed them to our destination. The tour was pretty good. It’s well thought out and covers many, many floors. You can learn how to pour a Guinness correctly, cook with it and drink it of course. My only issue is I never once saw the workings of the factory. It’s pretty much just a museum and they don’t let you anywhere near the production of it. I didn’t even bother getting my free Guinness to try. I did buy the Guinness chocolate mousse though… omm nom nom. I got the recipe card for that one.

After the tour I had to walk all the way back to the main part of town again (I didn’t get lost this time). I grabbed some Riverdance tickets for tonight’s show just because I happened to pass the theatre. I also wrote some postcards and sent off some packages before heading back to the hotel. It’s not until you go to write on a postcard that you realise just how small they are and you have to try to sum up a few weeks in only five sentences.

After a small rest Kel and I headed out for dinner and the show. Because we were already having quite an Irish night with the dancing we went to Captain America’s for dinner. Bit of balance you know. The Riverdance show was amazing. There was not only Irish dancing but flamenco and Russian as well. There was singing and crazy duels between the instrumentalists. I quite enjoyed watching the drummer cause he was so into it. Head banging along to celtic music, haha. They even brought out some modern tappers and they had a tap off with the Irish guys. Very entertaining. The theatre we were in was lovely too. Quite a good way to cap off Ireland.

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<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Day 100 – Llangollen – Wales

Day 100!!!! We left Ireland bright and early (5:30am wake up, not happy) and headed to Wales. The last time I did this particular ferry crossing it was rough as guts and people were losing the contents of their stomachs. Very calm today, hooray! We had a quick stop at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (yes that’s a town) for a photo op and then continued onto Llangollen.

Once in town we had the option of taking a horse drawn canal boat ride, a steam train ride or just doing our own thing. I chose the steam train. Our carriage was old school, the conductor came by calling ‘Tickets please’ and it had all the sounds and smells you would expect. The scenery was incredible along the route. We were running alongside a river, paddocks, mountains, forests and cottages. A great little trip.

For dinner, Kel and I went to The Mill which is situated beside the river overlooking part of the town. I had a lovely duck salad and then we headed back to our ‘haunted’ hotel. More like ‘pain in the arse’ hotel. We had to carry our suitcases up many staircases and it was a bit like a labyrinth.

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<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Day 101 – Cardiff

Off to Cardiff today and they have a pretty cool castle. We were staying opposite it and had a lovely view of the castle through the trees. We headed to the castle for a proper explore with some of the group. We walked through tunnels, climbed towers, got put in the stocks and wandered through the renovated mansion. After that we had time for a quick look in the shops and then got ready for dinner.

Our last group dinner was at a funky restaurant and the food was devine. One thing I have to say about TopDeck is they always provide us with great meals. We headed out for some drinks with a few of the crew. The place we went to came round with new cocktails to sample and free pizza to munch on. Why isn’t every club like this one?

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<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Day 102 – London – England

We headed to Bath this morning and we only had an hour to explore. How pitiful. Like you can explore Bath in an hour. So glad I already had a few days in Bath earlier in my trip. I walked to The Circle and The Crescent to have another looksie and then time was pretty much up.

To pass the time on the bus we’ve been playing ‘Heads Up’ which is a combination of charades, singing songs and describing people, accents, movies, animals etc. It’s a crack-up. We’re pretty loud when we play it but the time just flies by. Stonehenge was next up and it was pretty much what I expected… a pile of rocks. It was packed with tourists and I only spent about 15 mins looking at the site. The weather could have been better too.

Today is the last day of this trip and I have to give an honest opinion about it. It’s not the trip we all expected. It had great parts but it had a few not so great parts too. We stayed in towns or stopped at places that probably could have been given a miss. We skipped over major towns quickly like Oxford and Bath. Ireland was a dud. They didn’t even organise a pub crawl. Every walking tour went for 5 mins where we saw maybe two things. We learnt nothing about the history or the sights. We all agreed we could have planned this trip ourselves and done a better job. Highlights were the included meals and hotels but that’s about it. All the amazing things we did were organised by ourselves like the Military Tattoo, Fringe Festival and Riverdance. Not your best effort TopDeck.

Back to London and we have an awesome hotel with an even awesomer location. We are a stone’s throw from Oxford street and a tube station. We had a bit of an explore on Tottenham Court Rd, I got myself tickets to The Lion King (woohoo!!!!), we visited M&M world again and had dinner in Chinatown. Not too shabby.

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<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Day 103 – London

We wanted to hit the Camden Markets today and wouldn’t you know it… the Northern Line was out of action today. Fabulous. The only tube line we need today and it’s closed. We recalculated our route a bit and eventually got to the markets. We had a bit of a wander round. I got myself a crepe and a cute top. Then we bused ourselves back to the hotel.

A quick stop at the hotel and I headed out by myself for the Lion King. I stopped for lunch and scored myself a free latte. Yay free stuff! The Lyceum Theatre is quite big and the balcony’s not too far away from the stage so I had a good seat. I liked the Lion King but I wouldn’t put it in my Top 5 musicals. The puppetry is cool but I only knew a few of the songs. Timon and Pumba were great and all the costumes are very clever. I liked the costume for the people who played grass.

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<strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Day 104 – London

London tube = 8 pounds

Overground train = 22 pounds

Taxi = 20 pounds

Highclere Castle entry = 11 pounds

The look on my face when I saw Downton Abbey = PRICELESS

It took almost four hours of travel time and a hell of a lot of money but Highclere Castle was worth the trip out. It’s only open for 8 weeks every year and it’s pretty much booked out for the next two seasons. I managed to get into the house along with the grounds. They film Downton in at least three of the rooms inside the house. The library, the saloon and the dining room. The outside of the castle is also used of course. I got great weather and took many, many, many photos from all different angles. The gardens were incredible too. In the taxi ride to and from Highclere Castle I passed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s property. Acres and acres of it. I just saw the land not his house.

For my last night in London (for a little while) I went to We Will Rock You the musical. I have only seen it once before and that was a long time ago. I’ve always considered it one of my favourite musicals but when you’ve only seen it once you start to doubt yourself. It’s ok everyone. I was right. It is fabulous and still one of the best musicals. The music is just hit after hit and the performers are incredible. The audience was awesome too so we had hands swaying side to side, the good ole ‘stomp stomp clap’ happening and an epic Bohemian Rhapsody sing-a-long at the end. Standing ovation was well deserved.


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