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Our recent trip to Scotland and Ireland

24 Oct 2023 8:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

In September 2023, several members of the club went to Scotland and Ireland …. 

It's 3:30 PM Myrtle Beach sun time....my Dick Tracy watch says so. I tap my Roy Rogers decoding ring and it flashes green...time to board. Magic trip planner John Schwartz reminds everyone: Don't forget your passport! Somebody's bag is a "few pounds overweight" ... Too many pairs of shoes? Already?... wonder who that is?...  it’s a club secret already. Off to New Jersey... first trip to the aircraft bathroom, built for 115 lb. midgets who are able to back in. Long wait in Jersey. Finally, board for Edinburgh....Arrive Edinburgh approximately noon on Thurs the 14th... bused to the terminal... it's raining slightly... or maybe I just imagined it… did I mention the forecast is for rain?...

Local baggage handlers haul our luggage to the wrong international terminal. How many do they have? Too many, apparently... an hour and a half later, our bags start circulating on the luggage claim... and guess what, we can't find our bus…  It's a quarter mile down the road. No parking Nazi's in Edinburgh because you can't just drive up to the terminal with a bus... well, maybe just a ten-minute walk in the rain to the bus. Did I mention there's rain in the forecast?

Short ride to the Hilton Carlton hotel... easy check in procedure... as always, great hotel facilities... As usual, Patty needs to show Gene how to work the elevators…can't just push the button... have to scan your card... we go up and down three times before I figure it out   … Are we having fun yet?

A bit of a walkabout in downtown Edinburgh...lots of street performers, bagpipers with drummers, a magician, a young woman singing Ave Maria… dinner at a place called The Filling Station... good food.

Friday… half day bus tour of Edinburgh… lessons on John Knox, one of the historic Fathers of Scotland... University of Edinburgh, one of the original Engineering Schools in the world, if not the first… discovered the Theory of Evolution began here in Edinburgh. Of course tours of the Churches... visit the End of The World Pub… so named because it cost a penny to get in and if you didn't have the penny entrance fee (1600's) it was the "end of your world".           Also visited (but did not enter) a Brothel, titled "Cock and Trumpet" Pub... figure it out.        Visited the cemetery where the term "Graveyard Shift"  originated.  Grave robbers were common in the 1600-1700's, so a guard would be hired to guard the cemeteries and work Midnight to 6:00 AM… ergo, the "graveyard shift" … I have worked more than a few of those in the US Army... Visited the gardens of the Holyrood Palace, home of Queen Victoria.... took pictures of her outhouse where she bathed twice a year... surprising that she had 9 children... well, you understand....

In the afternoon, several of us did the Hop on / Hop off bus tour. Everyone did what they wished otherwise. Edinburgh was the capital of Scotland for 900 years.  The English ruled for most of their years ending in the 13th century when Robert The Bruce won a battle to end their rule.

Saturday… A walking day on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh...a mile between Edinburgh Castle on one end and the Holyrood Palace at the other end of the street... did I mention it rained? Like all Castles (for the most part) it sits on a hill overlooking the city and is guarded by a number of canons. One is so big that, when hauled to battle, many Castle defenders would run away because a single shell would collapse one whole wall of any given castle. The gun powder needed to fire the shell (about two ft across in diameter) was the size and weight of a ten-year-old child...

Sunday ... up at 4:00 AM to catch a plane to Dublin, Ireland. It's two-and-a-half hours late... meanwhile, the remaining Ireland travelers are on their way from Myrtle Beach only to arrive and find us not present... did I mention if was raining? I learned some new words describing their waiting time... we drove to Limerick, Ireland to our hotel. The George Hotel was another great facility, though those of us with twin- bed rooms discovered that, if you rolled over a foot too far, you fell against the wall...

Our bus driver for the 8 days there was a short round man by the name of Phillip, a lifelong bachelor with a great sense of humor...e.g. "women are to be loved, not understood" … what's that howling in the back of the bus?     "Arguing your own case in court is like buying a dog and doing your own barking"..."! hate driving the 504 (the circle highway around Dublin) … they all drive like their tail's on fire?".... His father used to say to him: "yesterday is history, today is a miracle, and tomorrow is mystery". Discovered that electricity didn't come to rural Ireland until1974 because the rural folk couldn't afford it. That's a long time from the 11th century when the Vikings settled the area. They suffered under English rule until 1922 when they declared a State of Separation (for 800 years Irish were not allowed to own property or practice their Catholic religion …just a few of the oppressive rules the English forced on the Irish, and any rebellions were met with public hangings) ... Ireland became a Republic in 1929.

Monday…  we visited the Celtic Visitor Crystal Center where we met and watched a 30-year crystal employee cut a piece of crystal glass to be sold in their shop. Later in the afternoon we visited Galway, an 18th century Irish town with a number of traditional Irish pubs… did I mention the weather forecast is rain?... though on several days, we had warm weather after rain in the morning. We also stopped in Adare, one of the unique 13th century Villages of Ireland that is symbolic of the Irish thatched homes, many occupied by what Phillip called "The Travelers" They are what many US folk would call Gypsies. Also visited Killarney, and the Muckrose House and Gardens....lots of flowers....

Tuesday…  one of my favorite days... a visit to the Cliffs of Moher standing 700 ft above sea level and stretching for five miles along the Irish coast of the Atlantic. It's a climb of some quarter of a mile uphill … It's a really windy day and the sea is so rough… you walk through a spray of water on your way to the top as the sea washes up over the cliffs with the incoming waves. You can ride golf carts up and down if you wish, but most of us walked the paved paths.

That evening we enjoyed a Medieval Banquet at the 15th Century Castle of Bunratty... starting with a glass of Meade, a honey whiskey drink that was known to be offered at all weddings. The newly married couple were encouraged to drink a glass of Meade once a day for a month, which came to be known as the "honeymoon" ...didn't know that either...Our very own Magic Trip planner John Schwartz and wife Karen were crowned King and Queen for the evening with their very own crowns ...whereupon John chose a dinner scoundrel to be sent to the dungeon to be executed or tortured, or both... a hearty meal was served with no eating utensils...everything to be eaten with your fingers...(well, one was an exception due to allergy issues and was given a fork)....a wonderful evening with music and celebration of King John and Queen Karen's ruling commands.

Thursday… we set out from Limerick to Dublin... visiting the Kilkenny Castle... how many have we seen now? ... like Churches, maybe too many... This one was discovered under a Cathedral that had collapsed in part by an attack from Vikings.  When they sought to re-build it, it was discovered to have been built over a Castle... a 12th Century Castle that was home to the first Christian Irish King baptized in 1002 by the Irish Patron Saint, St Patrick. We end up at our hotel, the Camden Court Hotel in mid-town Dublin. As usual, a beautiful hotel with twin beds the size of an Army Cot, though I heard on the elevator (which Patty again had to demonstrate how to operate for me) that some had a suite with refrigerator, sitting room, etc.... Was it something I said that disqualified me?.....too old, too ugly likely.

Saturday... a full day of bus tour of Dublin...visits to many places … the General Post Office where the Irish Rebellion started that led to Republic status in 1929… bullet holes are still visible in the Public Square statues memorializing those rebellion days…a visit to Trinity College with its "Long Room" library of a million of books… then to St Patrick's Cathedral with its gazillion stained-glass Panels, Phoenix Park, the largest public park in Ireland with the President of Ireland's residence and the American Ambassador's residence… and, happily, the visit to the Guinness Storehouse, a 65-acre tract with Guinness beer production done in a seven-story warehouse that generates 4 million pints of Guinness beer daily… started in 1759 by one Arthur Guinness who originally leased 9 acres for 9,000 years... no, that's not a misprint! He and his wife Olivia bore 21 children, 11 of whom died early (an average child’s life was just 7 years) while ten survived. Magician trip-planner John Schwartz and I shared a pint on the seventh floor as promised a year before when he said we would be going to Ireland. The Guinness tour began on the first floor with a small, two-ounce Guinness sample and we were told "do not put the glass in your pocket".  If someone has one, you know they stole it …. easy to do as the entrance lobby was crowded with only three staff people supervising.  I had already bought a half-pint Guinness glass at the bar in our hotel for 5 Euros...

Saturday… we visited Wicklow, Ireland, home of the Garden of Ireland, … and then the Powerscourt Garden Estate, originally a 12,000-acre estate with the gardens and grounds developed over 20 years, completed in 1880...  did I mention it rained? Stopped long enough to stroll around the immediate House and close gardens, but unable to visit the longest waterfall in Ireland because of the rain, and then on to the small town of Avoca where we visited the original Hand Weaving Mill in Ireland started by two sisters in 1723. The original weaving loom is still there with, of course, a gift shop with lots of Cashmere coats, scarves, blankets to be bought. The progressive engineering of weaving looms out of Germany and imported to Avoca was fascinating to see, especially the addition of colored thread to the weaving process and the speed of weaving threads together on a machine something like 15/20 times a second if I recall it correctly (no, my note-taker is not sure).  lt was especially interesting to me as I was raised in a small burg in Indiana (Edna Mills) where the local small grocery store had a widowed woman and her unmarried daughter living.  The daughter had a weaving loom similar to the one in Avoca, and she wove cloth kitchen rugs and colored yarn sweaters. I would very often go watch her on Saturday mornings.

The Irish stew and clam chowder in the Irish restaurants were excellent as was most of the food we enjoyed in the many restaurants/bars/pubs while there. The Scottish and Irish people treated us well everywhere we went. I am not aware of a single incident that was unpleasant in dealing with locals in either Scotland or Ireland. And, by the way, did I mention that the weather forecast is rain?

Sunday… the last night in Ireland, bus driver Phillip had arranged a night at the oldest performing music hall in Ireland, The Taylors Cabaret and Irish Night performance theatre. Dinner and dancing with the Irish dancing champion (youngest ever} along with six of his dancing companions...regaled musically by some really talented folks. The male lead singer had just returned from London after performing the lead in the 25th anniversary performance of “Les Miserables".  The moment of the night, after the four-course meal, was our own Joe Calabretta's performance of "I'm not the pheasant feather plucker, but the pheasant feather plucker’s son, and I'm only plucking pheasant feathers until the pheasant feather plucker comes"…. He was asked to sing it rapidly three times in a row, and somehow it came out wrong… lt was a beautiful night of music and dancing enjoyed by those in attendance from our group.  A wonderful finish for a great journey in Scotland for 20 of us, and in Ireland for the entire group of 40.

The trip home was expedited by the fact that Dublin is the only airport in Europe that allows passengers to clear US customs at their airport. Arriving back in New Jersey, we were not forced to pass through Customs controls again before boarding a plane back to Myrtle Beach....

Thanks again to John and Karen Schwartz who cooperate with all of the club members in planning the journey, handling all the money, booking the airlines making sure everyone is present at every stop, figuring out who to call when a bus driver doesn't show up…and on and on it goes with John handling all the details and Karen helping keep track of it all. We are all indebted to your love and care of the Ski Club Travelers!

Submitted by Gene Young

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