Road Trip, First Stop: Eugene, Oregon

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We are heading back to Tucson for a month of sun and our next half marathon. This time we are driving down with a very full car. Our goal is to bring a few things, ok a lot of things, from our house in Washington and we want to have our own car while we are in Arizona.

You might be wondering why we stopped in Oregon on the first leg of the drive, since Eugene is only about 5 hours from Redmond, Washington. This is a legitimate question as we have 20 more hours to go! We stayed overnight in Eugene because my husband has a presentation at the local office this morning.

We have never been to Eugene before. We have spent a lot of time in Portland over the years. Our daughter was a competitive gymnast and son was a competitive rock climber, so they both had many meets or competitions all around Oregon. Eugene is beautiful! Perhaps it is just the fact that our hotel is along the Willamette River, or that fall leaves make every place pretty. Either way, we are impressed!

After 5 hours in the car we were eager to stretch our legs. We started out for walk along the river path.

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It was a sunny day here, which makes everything better!

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I just love this bridge with the clouds behind it

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All of Oregon is biking and walking friendly. This is just one of many pathways used by numerous pedestrians 

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Near this bridge is McMenamins Restaurant. We had never heard of this chain before, but they are all over the Oregon area, there is even near us in Bothell, Washington which we will have to visit when we get back. This chain also includes hotels, breweries, and wineries as well as the restaurants. Ours was specifically McMenamins North Bank Restaurant. We weren’t sure what to expect but what a pleasant surprise!

It was set right on the shore of the Willamette River, with an incredible view! It must be truly stunning in the summer!

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We made it in time for happy hour, of course 🙂 So, I started with a blueberry infused vodka cocktail and the hubby went with a craft beer of some sort (mine was so tasty I forgot what he had!)

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We were starving, so I went with the goat cheese, pesto and sun dried tomato torta. This came with four perfectly toasted crostini and balsamic vinegar- I loved this!

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My entree was the salmon topped with coffee-bacon jam! Unique and delicious!

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By now we were getting quite full so I chose to drink my dessert! I had this seasonal pumpkin infused cocktail. It was like a pumpkin milkshake. Just amazing!

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We ended the evening strolling back along the river to our hotel. I took one last shot of the sunset. There were quite a few clouds, but it was pretty nonetheless!

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Today we have 10 hours in the car to Fresno California-wish us luck!

 

Hiking, Sailing and Drinking our way through Kauai

This was our first trip to Kauai. We have been lucky enough to visit Maui many times when our kids were young. Hawaii in general is a great spot to take young kids with the beaches, the ocean, swimming pools… its just so casual and fun for the whole family. This time it was just the two of us and we decided to do some serious exploring.

Of course we were treated to some of the Hawaiian Island iconic images right away!

What is with the feral chicken population? They are pretty aggressive pan handlers!

 

We first arrived just in time to check out the sunset and plan our first hike for the following day.

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We got a fairly early start, thanks to the three hour time difference, and drove an hour to Waimea and Kokee State Park where the trail head for the Canyon Trail begins. This hike is not too strenuous (~3miles round trip) and ends at the Waipoo falls. The canyon itself if quite impressive! The colors are vibrant and there was some serious depth to the canyon.

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A scenic overlook before the hike 

 

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I just love the color of this volcanic, red clay

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Waipoo falls marks the end and turn around point of this hike.

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It took us an hour and half to hike down and 45 minutes to make our way back up! Not too bad. We made our way back to the Sheraton Resort, where we stayed for the 5 night vacation, cleaned up and headed out to the Beach House Restaurant for a very  nice dinner!

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The Beach House version of a Mai Tai

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My hubby loves his Manhattans!

 

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After the drinks and appetizer we enjoyed a delicious dinner! Of course we were also treated to a glorious Hawaiian sunset!

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The next morning we relaxed by the beach for awhile.

 

We had a sunset dinner cruise scheduled for the evening so we set out for Blue Dolphin Charters to meet our boat. This was a 4 hour cruise that took us past the north shore area of  Na Pali coast.

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We had beautiful weather (to start with anyway!)

 

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The colors were impressive to say the least! Notice those clouds moving in!

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The prehistoric look of the rock was stunning, there is no question as to why so many movies are filmed here. Of course there was a sunset!

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Despite the light rain, and the not so light seasickness experienced by some on the cruise, it was another great day in paradise!

The next day was the big test! We planned to hike the Kalalau trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls. This was going to be an all day affair to remember!!

We drove an hour and half north to Kee beach to pick up the trail head.

This hike was going to take the majority of the day. 8 miles round trip! The first 2 miles would lead us to a Hanakapi’ai beach. This portion of the hike was not too bad and we were rewarded with this view!

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the view from the beach back toward the hills

There were quite a few folks at this point, and many stayed here to play in the surf, have lunch and then return to the trail head. We decided to push on the next two miles to the waterfall. These next 2 miles were tougher, steeper and slippery from the periodic rainfall. It was slow going, but the scenery was spectacular. My favorite portion of this trail was the bamboo forest.

 

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After a couple tough hours we were rewarded with this! Hanakāpīʻai falls is ~300 feet long, and worth the hike!

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There were people everywhere, even though it looks like we were alone in my pictures. Many were swimming in the water and playing in the falls. It looked so refreshing but we did not want to hike back the 4 miles with wet feet. We stayed a little while, but knowing how difficult the terrain was, we started back soon after seeing the falls. We definitely wanted to get back to the car before dark or, more likely, before the afternoon showers!

We were really wiped out after that hike! Our feet, legs, knees, ankles…you get the idea! All we had the energy for was dinner! We got back, cleaned up and went to Keoki’s Paradise for dinner and more drinks! I really liked this spot, and the live music helped relax us after a really busy day.

 

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This brings us to the final day, where we just wanted to stroll along the beach and take in the beautiful sites one last time.

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We spent time at the ocean, by the pool and lounging around in a cabana, hiding from the heat.

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We truly loved Kauai and recommend all the restaurants and hikes in this post. We will be back!

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Critters of Kauai

This is a Roda inspired post, to be sure! I was trying to keep up with her, but who can? She is so disciplined and takes such great shots of everything! We have been in Kauai for 5 days and here are a few of the local “cuties” we have come across.

Anyone who has been to one of the Hawaiian Islands knows about the chickens! They are everywhere. Parking lots, the sides of the road, squashed in the road….you get the idea. This was one the scenes at the rental car lot near the airport. There were actually around 30 chickens roaming around.

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And then we ran into them again at the parking lot near one of our hikes. They come in packs begging for food. Of course we didn’t have anything that we thought they would want to eat but my husband threw down a small piece of banana just to see what would happen. They were all over it!

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There are baby chicks everywhere as well since there are plenty of roosters to make sure the hens are occupied!

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We stayed at the Sheraton Resort which, like most Hawaiian resorts, has plenty of ponds filled with fish. Some of these get quite large and attract cranes. This is a shot from our balcony which was on the fourth floor, so it is a bit blurry, sorry!

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Here is the crane from a closer distance.

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Tourists can’t help but feed the fish and this very smart crane stakes out the area. While the fish are in a feeding frenzy, and not paying attention, it swoops in and has a sushi lunch!

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Other honorable mentions that are ubiquitous in the Islands are… the cute lizards all over the property.

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And, the small birds hoping around when anyone is eating in the area. This little fellow is  waiting for my hubby to drop his raspberry scone.

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We did see dolphins on our sunset dinner cruise but I never got a clean photo of one of those, too fast for me!

That’s all the fauna we saw, of course there was significantly more on the flora count, and I hope to incorporate those shots in future posts. Aloha for now!

Half Marathon Training, September Update

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It’s October! We are running the TMC Get Moving Tucson Half Marathon in about 4 Weeks! We chose this run because we just bought a second home in Tucson and thought it made sense to run in our new community, and it would be a new challenge to run in the desert environment. It does make sense, but we really underestimated how much of a challenge it would be to run in the heat, at elevation (Tucson in 2200 ft) and the hills! Oh my, the hills! But I am getting ahead of myself, let’s take the month in order!

This was the plan for September.

September 2017
Monday Tuesday Wed Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 2 3
Run 8
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Run 5 Run 4 Run 9
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Run 5 Run 4 Run 9 10k fun run
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Run 6 Run5 Run10
25 26 27 28 29 30
Run 6 Run5 Run10

The first part of September went as scheduled, we ran our 8, 5, 4 and 9 miles here in Washington and they went quite well.

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The weather was mild and the temperatures were perfect in Seattle.

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After this 9 mile run we flew to Tucson to start setting up the house and train in the new environment. What a culture shock! 98F, hills, less oxygen at elevation and this:

 

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Running was hard. We had to start right at sunrise to avoid the high temps, which was gorgeous, and still 70F!

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We signed up for a local 10K to get a feel for what it would be like to run a race in Tucson. Bottom line: It was tough! 80F at the 7am start, and 400 feet of elevation gain! I was happy just to survive! Here is my Instagram post that day.

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I ran another 6 and 5 miles and my hubby did what he could, as he was working remotely during the whole trip in Tucson, and then we flew back to Washington for the 10 mile runs on 9/23 and 9/30. This gave me a total of 89.33 miles for the month.

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Now we are heading into the home stretch and our schedule for October.

October 2017

 

Monday Tuesday Wed Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Run 4 Run 5 Run 11
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Run 5 Run 4 Run 12
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Run5 Run4 Run6
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Run 4-5 Run 4-5 Carb load 13.1
30 31

The tricky part here will be running while we are in Kauai from 10/6 to 10/11. We are not sure how many times or how far we will be able to run while away, but we will try to be ready for the half marathon on the 29th. Again, the goal will be to survive! No PR or crazy goals with this one!

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Paris! Need I Say More?

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The final stop on our European vacation was Le Havre, in the Normandy region of France. Our ship docked in this port which is situated along an estuary to the river Seine. The Port of Le Havre is a fair distance from a number of beautiful and important places with great historical value. So, once again, choices had to be made as to where we wanted to spend those precious few hours for sightseeing. For me, there was no deliberation, I wanted to spend my time in Paris. Our family had the great fortune to spend a week in France back in 2009. We rented an apartment on the left bank and took our leisurely time exploring the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, L’Arc de Triomphe and Versailles, to name a few. I felt no pressure to revisit any of these amazing sights, instead I could have a leisurely stroll around this amazing city, have lunch and revisit some of our favorite spots from eight years ago. The rest of my family wanted a new experience and chose to visit the Beaches of Normandy, which was another wonderful choice!

So we all got up early and headed out to our respective buses for the 2.5 hour ride to Normandy, or the 3 hour ride to Paris! Along the way our tour guide narrated what we could expect from the 3 1/2 hours that we would have to explore the city on our own. Right away there were many tourist who were unhappy to learn that they could not see even a small fraction of the sights available to them. I guess they really believed that they could go up the Eiffel Tower, tour the Louvre, shop along the Champs d’Elysees, hit Notre Dame, have lunch in a French Bistro and make it back to the coach for the 3 hour ride back to the ship. I felt bad for some of them as this was their first time in Paris, but I am sure they figured it out!

The bus dropped us off near the Boulevard du Paris  Boulevard du Palais near the  Île de la Cité. Right away, I knew where I was!

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As you can see it was a gorgeous day in Paris! Actually a little too hot, but I stuck to my plan. I would set out on foot and follow the Seine until I reached Notre Dame. This impressive church is free to the public and is as stunning on the outside as it is inside. Which meant that if the line was too long, I would still get to see some amazing sights! As I started walking and I came across the Point Alexander III bridge. This is something to behold!

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My favorite bridge in all of Paris.

As I continued the long walk, there were incredible visions everywhere I looked.

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I spotted the Batobus de Paris several times. This is a great way to take in the sights, particularly on a sunny day like this one. One can hop on or off at various points of interest. Our guide recommended this for our group today as a means of taking a lot of pictures from the outside of the various attractions.

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A gorgeous government building here, that I don’t remember the name!

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After several miles, I saw the cathedral, it was just as grande as I remembered! IMG_3312

As I suspected, there was a tremendous line to get in so I toured the surrounding property and gardens.

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By now, I was tired, hungry and my neck hurt from looking up! I knew there was a little bistro nearby that served wonderful crepes. My daughter and I ate there often eight years ago and I wanted to find the same place for lunch.

It took a few trips around the block, but finally I found it!

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They also served the best gelato here, which we had many, many times!

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While I waited for my lunch I had water, which was served in a wine glass of course! So French!

I ordered caramelized apples with vanilla crepes (minus the whipped cream) and a cappuccino. Scrumptious! But a cardboard cut out would taste fabulous along the Seine!

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After feasting, and checking the clock (can’t miss my bus!) I decided to start back toward the Champs d’Elysees. But, when I turned the corner there was no line for entrance to Notre Dame. I had to capitalize on this good fortune and went in.

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There was a service in session so I wanted to be respectful.

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These stone carvings always amaze me-how did they do this so long ago?

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The precision and detail is astounding.

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I am not a religious person but always find it humbling to visit this special, ancient cathedral. And, I can’t help but think of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

Now I really did need to head back to the area near our coach. I took a few more shots along the way.

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Do you recognize this bridge? It’s the famous one for lovers to place padlocks along the railing. Recently, the city asked for this practice to stop due to the sheer weight of the locks on the structure. Doesn’t look like anyone is listening!

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I guess I am a faster walker than I realized because I did have time to head over to the Champs d’Elysees after all. I was not interested in shopping but wanted to look at some bakeries. This is Paris!

I found this really cute bakery/bistro on the corner. There was a monstrous line inside so my shots are taken around the tourists.

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It all looked so tempting, but no, I didn’t get anything from this store. I did find a much less crowded “mini Bistro” that had take away food (as they call it). I bought a toasted Croque Monsieur for the bus ride back to the ship. The french baguette was worth the price alone! Amazing!

It was a very long day (I walked 7+ miles in some high temps) but I was so happy with my time there that it might have been my favorite stop of the whole trip. I rode away knowing that I did not need to return to see all that I missed. Well, except for L’Arc de Triomphe. It was at the other end of the Champs d’Elysees so I only got a glimpse-I will leave you with that.

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If you are interested in the previous ports of call, you can check out what we saw in:

Southampton, England

Cobh, Ireland

Dublin and Belfast, Ireland

Greenock, Invergordon and Queensferry Scotland

Next up: Kauai, Hawaii!

 

 

 

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Whisky VS. Whiskey, How it is done in Scotland!

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I am taking a break from rustling scorpions and tarantulas in our new home in Tucson to continue my travel blogging posts. If you follow my Instagram then you know what I am talking about, and if you don’t then click on over for some really interesting photos!

Our next stop after Belfast were three ports in Scotland. The first stop was Greenock, a place I had never heard of before. But the first oder of business was a quick morning training run. Have to train while on vacation!

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We got back to the ship and cleaned up for the second half of the day. There were several options for sightseeing and we finally decided to tour Glengoyne whisky distillery. We boarded our coach that took us about 45 minutes out into the countryside.

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A beautiful church along the way

At first the distillery looked like a cattle barn to me.

 

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Once we got out and started to look around I began to notice the amazing landscape.

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It actually reminded me of the wineries we see back home in Woodinville, Washington. There were flowers all around and birds zipping through the open field.

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Then our guide came out to meet us and that’s when I knew we were someplace else!

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The kilts and the accent that I could barely understand were a definite tip off that we were in Scotland! 

To say these guys are passionate about whisky is a gross understatement! One has the impression that whisky is all they live for here. Our guides impressed a few things upon us about the production of true Scotch whisky. For off, Glengoyne is unique in that they are the only distillery to use water from the Highlands and age the whisky in cask barrels in the Low lands. The waterfall in the back of the property is stunning, and my pictures do not do it justice, but I tried to capture the irrigations system as it flows onto the property and is naturally filtered by the rocks and stones before it enters the production facility.

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They next spent an inordinate amount of time talking about how they smoke their barley-all I remember is that they don’t use peat. I am guessing that is important!

We were then treated to some free samples. This was a very popular part of the tour, for everyone except me, not a fan! They passed around the whisky, which always looks like urine to me and tastes like gasoline. Everyone loved it! The tour continued, after a short video on the history of the distillery which has been operating non stop since 1833. Our guide explained that Scotch whisky is the only “true” whisky and the only one allowed to be spelled without the “e”. So if you see “whiskey” it was not produced in Scotland and is therefore, by his definition, inferior! He was quite sure on that point!

We moved onto the storage facility.

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This beautiful display demonstrated how the whisky changes over time in sherry casks. There were several other such displays for aged whisky in other types of wooden casks barrels. 

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I loved the colorful barrels in the storage room

The tour ended with a stop in the gift shop (of course, what tour does not stop in the gift shop!) where another sample was distributed to the crowd. I took a pass as the subtle difference between unleaded and diesel are lost on me!

We hopped back on the tour bus and went onto Loch Lomond for a quick stop.

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This is the largest waterway within the British Isles, but we only spent a few minutes here. Just enough time to grab a coffee or ice cream and have a look around.

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On the bus ride back to the ship we saw this little outpost nestled in this island. It had an impressive backstory relating to strategic placement during war time, I just liked the look of it!

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That ended the day in Greenock. We next arrived at Invergordon. Again, I had never heard of this town but it was (sort of ) near Edinburgh, if you don’t mind a long bus ride. There were many sights to see and places to visit, but they were quite a ways off and we did not schedule any excursions. So, my pictures are mainly from the ship and from a run we decided to take through the small town.IMG_3199

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Looking at my run map above it appears I am running on the water. This pier is where that portion of the run took place.

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The town was quaint and quite small. Our 8 mile run pretty much covered the whole area! We should have visited a castle or gone to the Royal tattoo which is a huge festival in August, but we didn’t do our homework and missed out on that.

We set sail for South Queensferry, home of the very impressive Forth Bridge.

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The Forth Bridge was built in 1890 and was the first steel structure built in the world and is still the world’s longest cantilever bridge. It serves as a passenger railway and I was shocked that only 57 men lost their lives during construction. That is low when you consider that 4,000 men were employed and safety concerns were not what they are today. The bridge (and the other two which have been erected since) basically support the growth of the town. It is a quaint, but busy city with shops, tourism and great restaurants.

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A typical European taxi

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I love a country that has its priorities in place!

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This was as close to Nessie as I was going to get this trip!

 

These shops and buildings just screamed Scotland to me!

 

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All of a sudden it began to pour, buckets! We are told that happens in the British Isles, so it was time for lunch! We ducked into the first place we could find.

 

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Just as fast as the rain started, it stopped again and the sun came out! We went over to the The Hawes Inn which was built to house and feed the Forth Bridge workers back in 1850.

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After touring around the Inn it was time to head back to the ship. We took the tender for the short ride and I took a few last shots of the surroundings.

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Two of the tenders from our ship

 

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There is our mobile home!

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This tanker ship was getting fuel nearby

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Our departure from Scotland, next stop for me Paris, France!

Dinning and touring in Dublin and Belfast!

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Our next port of call, after Cobh, was Dublin. I had high expectations, maybe too high. I knew I would have to settle for just a few sights and, of course, it was raining. More like pouring really, so we had a lot of wet, soggy ground to cover in just a few hours!

As we pulled into port it was obvious that the skies were not going to clear anytime soon.

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we could make out the new soccer stadium in the gloom

Our shuttle bus dropped us in the downtown area and we set out on foot for Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university founded in 1592. It is also the home of the Book of Kells. Now, I am not a religious person but this collection was penned in 384 AD, and I am a person who greatly values the written word and was hoping to see this exhibit. So we started off toward the college.

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Sights along the way

Trinity College was beautiful. I tried to get a few shots of the campus as we wandered around in the rain.

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The arrow pointing the way to the line to enter The Book of Kells

Unfortunately, the line was long and the rain was steady so the decision was made to move onto sight number two. The next stop on our walking tour was The Dublin Castle and we pointed ourselves in that direction. Along the way there were some beautiful sights lining the path.

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We ducked into a bakery and I snapped a few shots of the local yummies!

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We saw this building titled: Sick & Indicent Roomkeepers Society. What is this about?? Glad I wasn’t alive in 1790 AD!

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As we rounded the corner we saw The Dublin Castle. It was built in the 13th century on a Viking settlement and used primarily by the British until 1922 when the Irish Government took over. What is really cool is that it is a working building that is used for state functions and houses governmental bodies.

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The inside foyer was studded with sculptures.

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Many politicians have posed in front of this area.

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A portion of the tour included this gorgeous hallway.

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One room off the hallway contained these amazing books which have been painstakingly restored. I may not have made it into the Book of Kells but I was thrilled to see this display.

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Another room off that same hallway was this spectacular red room that routinely holds state functions.

 

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By now we were hungry and a little tired from all this walking around. We went out into the street to search for a pub and dry off a bit from the rain.

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We found The Bankers Lounge, which was adorable. In fact I loved the mural on the wall so much that I used it to log our run on Instagram.

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All four of us had the lamb stew with black bread. It was amazing, and I don’t like lamb! Maybe I just needed an Irishman to prepare it for me!

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This was a great way to wrap up our Dublin experience. We next moved onto Belfast, home of the Titanic museum. Our cruise ship sailed for Northern Ireland while we slept and we woke up to this view!

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We boarded another shuttle bus and were, once again, dropped in the middle of the downtown area. This time, no rain! Once again we set out on foot to find the Titanic Museum. We started down the street and I took a few shots along the way.

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There was a McDonlad’s and a KFC everywhere!

 

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I thought this clock tower was gorgeous!

 

The Titanic Museum was pretty easy to spot! The outside of the this massive building is shaped like the bow of a ship, stunning!

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I was looking back toward our cruise ship which was across the water. It was a little eerie spending the better part of the day studying the demise of the Titanic then heading back to our cruise ship!

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I did not take a lot of photos in the museum as it was dark and a very interactive exhibit. There were holograms, an Imax movie, a 3D experience room that took you on a tour of the ship and even a ride in the building! I really do recommend this museum as it was like no other I have ever been to, it was truly unique! There were a couple images that stood out and I did try to capture some of them.

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This was a poster from that era advertising for the ill fated cruise line.

There were several exhibits illustrating the accommodations for the different classes on board. Below is the third class cabin complete with holograms and a recording playing a hypothetical conversation between these two girls. They spoke of how excited they were to be going to New York.

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This map showed the voyage of the Titanic as it sailed from its construction site in Belfast to Southampton where the passengers embarked, then travelled to Queenstown (now know as Cobh, Ireland) to pick up the last of the passengers, her last port of call before the tragedy. It really struck me, when I viewed this map, how closely my trip was mirroring the Titanic’s itinerary.

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These final images of the museum were the slow sinking of the massive ship as Celine Dion sang her famous ballad from the Titanic movie (you knew that had to be in there somewhere).

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We safely made our way back to our own ship and said good bye to Ireland. There is so much more I would like to see and do here, I will definitely be heading back in the future!

Our next port of call will be Greenock, Scotland and there may be some whisky involved!