England-Ireland-2014 Trip Short Notes

Stonehenge

I will start trying to put some abbreviated notes up each day for what we do. It is going to be whirlwind from here on out! (On the picture links, use the lowres if you have slow internet, hires otherwise).

------------------------------

Day 8, Tuesday (July 15th) -

I know, why would anyone start with day 8. Short answer - too many activities, way too many pictures, too few hours to both experience and put pictures up on a website! Seriously, I will get some pics, but wait a day or two! We left Bury St. Edmunds about 7:30 this morning and had an enjoyable drive to Stonehenge. Thoroughly enjoyed every mile of the drive, including dead stop, bumper-to-bumper driving on the freeway around London! Just to have driven through the different areas from Bury St. Edmunds, past London and on to Amesbury was delightful.

Visited the ancient stones and what an experience it was! You can either walk or ride a bus from the visitor center to the site (about 1.25 mile walk). Here is a picture (lowres , hires) - the stones are in the trees on the horizon to the right of the road. You can't imagine from the pictures how immense these stones and the whole area surrounding them is! The main area containing stonehenge with its associated barrows, ditches (called a cursus), stones, trees and various stone-holes is about 2.5 miles east-west by 1.5 miles north-south, or nearly four square miles. There are also various rings, barrows, etc outside this area. The main stone-circle area everyone views consists of two circles of stones, one inside the other. The area is roped off so that you can't actually touch the stones. The roped area is a circle of about 150 feet in diameter. The outer circle of stones is about 80 feet in diameter. The inner circle of stones is about 60 feet in diameter. The tallest stone is about 35 feet in height ((lowres , hires)). I am putting a link to one picture that I didn't take myself to show an aerial view, which gives the perspective of what I've just described that pictures taken from ground level just can't provide. All the pictures after the first one are ones that Janet and I took:

aerial view (taken from - Stonehenge: ruins of Stonehenge, Photograph, from Britannica Online for Kids, accessed July 30, 2014, http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-117495)

here are several miscellaneous pics:
1) View from the northwest (lowres , hires)
2) View from the southwest (lowres , hires)
3) Zoomed view from the southwest (lowres , hires)
4) View from the south (lowres , hires)
5) Zoomed view from the south (lowres , hires)
6) View from the west (lowres , hires)
7) Zoomed view 1 from the west (lowres , hires)
8) Zoomed view 2 from the west (lowres , hires)
9) Close up of one of the trilithions (lowres , hires)
10) View from the heelstone (lowres , hires)
11) Zoomed view from the heelstone (lowres , hires)
12) Closer zoomed view from the heelstone (lowres , hires)

There were MANY other pictures we took of things we saw, but perhaps this gives the idea. They had a great museum in the visitor's center, a mock-up of one of the ancient villages that has been excavated in the area just outside the visitor's center as well. After leaving you can't help but wonder, "What were those people doing all this for from about the times of Abraham to Moses?" It is fascinating that as much as people have figured out about how and when Stonehenge was built, no one really has any idea as to why. In the words of our old friend, Spock, "Fascinating!"

The drive from Stonehenge to Wales through Southwestern England is just beautiful. We arrived at our Bed and Breakfast in Caerwent, Wales about 4:00 and quickly got moved into our room. Left time for a short walk around this incredibly scenic and ancient town in Wales. The Romans put their largest center in Wales here about 75 A.D. and the stone wall foundations are still here, as is the ancient wall around the Roman outpost. Many of the stones have been used through the millennia to build houses, fences, etc. throughout the town. There is a large stone church building (Church of Wales) with tombstones in the yard around the church (a favorite burial place for people in England), many of which go back to the early 1800s. We saw one as far back as 1771. Wow! The Welsh meal at our B&B of Gammon and apple pie was indescribable! Gammon, when I asked our waitress what is was, is, "Like ham, only thicker and better." And it was! We will journey through Wales tomorrow to Liverpool to catch our ferry to Ireland.

Day 9, Wednesday (July 16th) -

Will fill in later. Many of the B&Bs here have very slow internet (or none), which makes it awfully hard to keep up with pictures and posting. If you see gaps in these notes, that is why!

Day 10, Thursday (July 17th) -

Hit the Dublin port about noon, drove off the ferry and into the streets of Dublin. Found out that the simm card I had on my phone for England didn't work in ireland, so no gps - HELP!!!! (You do NOT want to try driving through downtown Dublin to get anywhere without a gps if you can help it!). But, God takes care of the simple-minded: Whatever I did on Janet's phone several days ago to make it work in England didn't work in England, but it does in Ireland! Go figure!! In any case we now have Siri to help us navigate through Ireland. Saw the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, on the site of the Dublin Castle. The Library contains some of the oldest New Testament papyrus fragments known. I saw some of Paul's writings in Corinthians and the Prison Epistles dating back to the early 3rd century (about 220 A.D.). Also saw some fragments of Acts and some of the Septuagint. Incredible! We then ate lunch at the famous Temple Bar in downtown Dublin. Had a wonderful cheese plate and listened to a local Irishman singing classis Irish and other songs (with guitar accompaniment). It was a delightful stop. Then traveled towards the North Ireland coast. In the late afternoon we were getting tired, so we pulled off the highway into a little town, stopped at the small grocery store and asked if there was a Bed & Breakfast close by. The people in the store thought for just a minute, then smiled and gave us directions to Annagassan, which had a delightful B&B with rooms looking out on the Irish Sea.

Day 11, Friday (July 18th) - We headed north towards the upper coast of Ireland. Saw the ecclesiastical center of Ireland (Armagh). This place is swamped with very old churches. A huge Catholic Cathedral (St. Patricks) built in the late 1600's, along with 150-200 year old Presbyterian, Anglican, and even an independent church. Also the only Baptist church we have seen so far in Ireland. We continued north, driving along the Antrim coast to the Giant's Causeway. We walked along and brought a picnic lunch to enjoy on the walk. Walked about 2 or 3 miles along an amazing group of rocks on the coast. You will have to look at the pictures to see what I mean. It was a grueling hike down to the beach and then up a path on a 500 foot cliff. We then went a little west to a neat rope bridge from the mainland to a small rock island. Again, great pics. The bridge was quite bouncy and enjoyable, even if it was only about 100 feet over the water. Headed towards Sligo to see the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery. Got tired along the way and stopped at the Mellon County Inn.

Day 12, Saturday (July 19th) -

The Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery was unpolished, but neat. There are numerous giant stone burial grounds in meadows in a region about a square mile. The huge upright stones all point towards a center burial ground. There was also a huge cairn - rockes piled up in a heap about 30 yards across and 40 yards long (elliptical shaped). The rocks were about 15 - 20 feet high. What were these people doing all this for about 5000 years ago in Ireland? When we left Carrowmore, we really didn't have a place to stay except that we wanted to see the northwest coast of Ireland. We decided the Achill Island would be perfect. The drive was beautiful. Since we didn't have a reservation anywhere I found a couple of B&Bs recommended in the Frommer's Guide. Called the first one and they didn't have any rooms. Called the second one and actually spoke with the lady who ran the place and had been mentioned in the guide. She was quite friendly and said she had one room with a great view of the ocean, so we took it. The drive through the island was, again, beautiful and on very narrow roads. This is the day Janet had her first UK driving experience. We started on a medium-sized highway that quickly shrank and when we hit our first town, of course the GPS got confused so we took several small city streets until we finally got out of town and back on the road. The GPS directions to our B&B ended with the words, "You will have to get out of your car and walk the remainder of the route to reach your destination." (Oh Brother!) However, Janet persevered and found the parking lot to the B&B and we ended up having the most scenic room they had. We had a bay window that opened out onto a beautiful back porch and play-yard with the beach and ocean right behind us. Across the bay (about 2 miles) were the beautiful Minaun Cliffs. For supper I had the best smoked Salmon I've ever tasted. Janet had a wonderful salad with fruit and nuts added which was exploding with flavor. The breakfast menu had a "Puffed egg with Smoked Salmon Bacon" selection that we both chose. Again, unbelievable flavor! (I probably need to add a side note here about driving in England/Ireland: It is MUCH harder, stressful, scarier, etc to be the passenger!!!! I didn't really appreciate Janet's great self-control until I found myself gasping, "oh my-ing!", etc. on the tiny roads as the tour busses approached until I sat there myself as Janet drove. Also, I never knew just how talented she was at getting all the great pics from the passenger seat. If you wait a half-second, the great shot is gone!

Day 13, Sunday (July 20th) -

Woke up in our room on the sea in "the Bervies" (the beautiful B&B on the Achill Island (off the Northwest coast). Went to Mass in a little Catholic Church - standing room only, we were actually in the door and I was halfway outside. It was interesting to hear everyone there say the Lord's Prayer in Irish! Went back to our room and out to the coast and I swam a little in the Atlantic Ocean in the rain. The water was very brisk with delightful, gentle waves. A nice flat sandy beach with a very gentle slope. I had to walk about three hundred yards out to get to where the waves would lift me off the bottom. - Janet stayed on the shore and took some pictures. We then left Keel to head south towards Galway. At Galway, we had to decide where to go next. and headed for Clare County. When we first started, we strongly doubted that it was going to be worth it because of the drive. It was a very touristy region and the road was very narrow, bumpy and busy. Not only was it busy, but it was busy with many tour busses coming at you! If you have never driven one of the small UK roads, it is a very hair-raising experience. The highway itself is more narrow that the street in front of our house in Lubbock. When one of those tour busses goes by, your literally must let the left side of your car brush the vines and bushes that grow on the rock fence that is less that a foot from the left edge of the road. There is no such thing as a ???. But after we got out of the tourist trap, the incredibly beautiful views made us decide it was worth it. The west side of Ireland could be described as having 5 large peninsulas and one large bay (Donegal Bay). The southernmost bay has four large fingers that stick out into the Atlantic Ocean. The next peninsula up is between the Galway Bay on the north and the Shannon Estuary on the south. We were headed for the coast of that bay. On that coast is a beautiful coastal drive around the north side, starting out with the Galway Bay on your right and the county of Clare on your left. As you drive around the coast you leave the Galway Bay behind and end up with the Atlantic on your right. This whole part of Ireland is very rocky. Whole mountain peaks are so rocky that nothing grows on the tops of them. On the north side of the west coast of Clare Island there are just great outcroppings of rock into the ocean (we took several pictures of this - see the ones around the Black Head lookout). Finally, you go inland from the coast just a bit as you head south and you arrive at the village of Doolin. Doolin is said to be the "unofficial center of Irish traditional music" (the Frommerr's Guide). We found a very nice B&B here (the Doolin House B&B - see pictures). There are two pubs a short walk up the road from the B&B. From the advice of the Frommer's Guide, we chose McDermot's Pub and couldn't have been more pleased with our choice. We arrived about 9:00 pm and ordered some supper. I ordered an Irish Stew which had roast beef, carrots, onions and Irish potatoes, along with other items for seasoning, all in a broth based on Guiness Black. It was out of this world good! Thanks Nat - this is what your sweet Father's Day gift got me! Janet ordered a fish and chips which was easily the best we had in Ireland. Right after we ordered, a great duet with one man on the Guitar and another on the Irish Pipe started playing. The pipe looks like a flute but sounds like a cross between the clarinet and the trumpet. The music was delightful. They were later joined by an older man playing the violin. What a great night! We will start back tomorrow for the East coast and Dublin.

Day 14, Monday (July 21st) -

We left the B&B in Doolin and started east for Dublin. The drive from Doolin went down to the coastal town of Lahinch. Again, very small road and slow driving, but beautiful. Then we went to Limerick. Many old churches, castles and cemeteries along the way. At Limerick, you hit one of the main east-west highways. It was a "dual-carriageway" highway (what we would call a divided highway). These are the quickest, easiest roads to drive on in the UK. The speed limit is 120 (kph = about 70 mph). This took us to about 60 miles short of Dublin where I wanted to have one last great Ireland viewing experience. So we turned off the nice highway to smaller roads to seek the Glendalough Monastic Ruins (in the middle of nowhere in Wicklow county). Again, very small roads, but through a beautiful mountainous area. This reminded us of the Colorado mountain regions (except the altitude here was about 500 feet as opposed to the Colorado 8-10,000 feet! Very beautiful! The Glendalough Monastery was found perhaps as long ago as 400 A.D. by the Catholic missionaries to the Celts. There is a Celtic cemetery going back that far, but, unfortunately, you could no longer access the trail to it without prior arrangements. We still saw a Church Bell Towner about 100 feet high built about 1000 - 1200 years ago. It was still in excellent shape (see the pictures). There was also an old church (the Reefert Church), built of rock (about three to four feet thick) that was built about 1200 A.D. The roof was gone but the walls and windows were still there. As we stood in this little church, I couldn't help but wonder how many songs of praise and worship had been sung there for a thousand years in how many tongues? Again, see the pictures. The valley that these churches were in was spectacularly beautiful. I always wish I could have every child and grandchild here with me to experience all this! We left the ruins and finally made it to Dublin. We faced the nightmare of driving in the city center to try to find a hotel near the port so that we could safely get to the port the next morning. Again, if you've never done it you just have no idea. I've never seen any place in the states that combines smaller roads, faster crazy drivers, more confusing and unannounced one-way streets and crazy busses! At one point I knew I wasn't in a "normal" place waiting on a light and became quickly convinced of it when the subway train behind me began honking loudly and furiously! Thankfully I was able to get out of the way! We finally figured out how to park in the Gibson Hotel garage and got a room. Unfortunately, we tried walking around the busy city streets (in a mainly industrial area) and wasted the last of our energy and time finding no "normal" food (there was plenty of asian and italian). We went back to the hotel to just use the hotel restaurant for supper and, after looking at a depressingly asian menu, ordered a club sandwich, only to be told they don't do those for supper. So Janet go tomato basil soup and I got barbecue ribs. Beware of ordering barbecue in a place like this. I don't know what it was, but I told the waiter that in Texas they would lock a man up for ruining good ribs like that and calling it barbecue! Janet's soup was lukewarm, so we went to bed hungry and exhausted. Oh well, the trip as a whole has been unbelievable (come to think of it those ribs were also unbelievable!). So on to the ferry to head back to England tomorrow!

Day 15, Tuesday (July 22nd) -

Left the hotel and made it to the ferry port with only minor difficulties. Janet's credit card was stuck in the pay machine to get out of the parking garage, but we luckily ended up having enough loose euro coins to take care of it and she got her card back. It's true that we left the garage with the "Help Horn" blaring, but I'm sure it eventually quit! The ferry experience is delightful. We got a small cabin this time, with two small bunks and a private bathroom. Very nice. The weather has been spectacular and I have numerous pictures of other ships, oil rigs, waves, etc. We will hit Liverpool about 5:00 pm (the ferry left at 9:00 am, we had to be there about 7:00 am to board - the cheap ferries are a 7-8 hour trip). When we disembark at Liverpool, we will head for Oxford to checkout the pub where Lewis and Tolkien used to meet with the Inklings. I'm typing this outside on the ferry bench seat, so I'll continue this later! Next installment for Tuesday: We got away from the ferry dock in Liverpool with no problems. Headed southwest on the M6 interstate to Oxford. Arrived in Oxford about 8:45 pm, in time to find the Eagle and the Child pub where C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien met with the Inklings to discuss their literary endeavors. We found a room in a 17th century inn in the middle of the huge Oxford campus area. We barely have any internet connection tonight so pictures will again have to wait. Press this link for a page about the Ridley-Latimer-Cranmer memorial and pictures. We will take a brief tour of the campus tomorrow and head back to Justin and Lindsay's!

Day 16, Wednesday (July 23rd) -

Day 17, Thursday (July 24th) -

Day 18, Friday (July 25th) -

We dressed for outdoor activities and headed to Thetford Forest, an area like one of our National Park sites about 20 miles north of Bury St. Edmunds. I've never seen anything like this in the States. It is an immense forest with different areas cleared and semi-cleared for various family activities. The area we were in has an incredible park-like setting, spread out over several square miles. There was a huge crowd because it was a special "no-charge" day for parking and admittance to the park. There were several huge grassy areas with different activities going. Some local musicians performing, face-painting, a Jiujitsu demonstration, lots of food. There are two huge ropes courses - one for young and old people and another for pros. They call them the Apes and Apes Junior courses. We decided to do the Apes Junior course (partially because that was the one the girls could do). You get some basic instruction and are fitted with safety harnesses (in case you fall off the various rope bridges, boards, nets, etc. that you will cross. You are about 40 feet up and they have platforms in massive trees connected by various types of rope, board, nets to get from one platform to the next. There are about a dozen platforms with the type of challenge to get from one to the next getting progressively harder, scarier and more challenging. You end with about a 200 foot zip-line. You get an hour to do the course as many times as you can. The faster you are, the more times you can do it. We ended up doing the whole course twice. It was a fun and fantastic experience the I hope to do again someday. I'll add the pics to go with it as soon as I can, but until then, see the few of them on Janet's facebook site.
After the ropes course we would go from one type of playground activity to another, separated by anywhere from 20 to 100 feet in this massive forest. Huge platforms for climbing with slides at different exit points. The highest was probably 40 feet high with a massive enclosed slide at the end. There is a musical forest with many clever playground sets to create music. There was a great net climbing station in the shape of a tent with a pole at the center. There is a smaller zip-line for younger kids - about 80-100 feet (not as high as our earlier one). There was a giant seesaw - about 10 feet across, 30 feet long and it takes about 15 people on each side. When one large person (or two or three smaller ones) changes sides, the seesaw swings up or down. Finally there is a massive swing - a 30 foot log tied by many ropes to a huge a-frame stand the holds about 15-20 people on the log. They begin to swing back and forth and soon everyone is enjoying the ride. We left at the end of a long day, very tired but satisfied (but not too tire to watch the classic Harvie movie with Jimmie Stewart). Justin and I thought it was great. Everyone else gave slightly less stellar ratings!

Day 19, Saturday (July 26th) -

We stopped by the grocery store and bought cheese, bread and crackers for a picnic by the sea and headed for the beach. The spot Lindsay and Justin chose was Wells-next-the-sea. It is about 60 miles due north of their place and on the north coast of the small peninsula containing Norwich (about the same latitude as Amsterdam in Holland). When we arrived we parked and climbed up to the beach area. At first, I was quite disappointed. There was plenty of sand, but no ocean! There was a small channel between the sand (about 30 feet across), marked with bouys, that contained enough water to wade in and possibly over your head in the very middle. Sand extended beyond this channel about two miles in every direction. We finally decided to walk and explore towards the direction we supposed the ocean would be. After we had walked about a mile, we thought we could see ocean breakers ahead, so we kept walking. After nearly another mile, we finally came to the shore. The water depth very gradually increased to about chest-high after about 400 yards out from the shore. I had a nice swim in the North Sea with very gentle waves. As we had walked out from our picnic area on the sandy beach we had noticed signs that all that sand had been covered with water (shells, rocks, seaweed, etc.). We decided that, as hard as it was to imagine, that when the tide came in (high tide was about 7:30 that night), all that vast area of sand would be covered with water. We decided to play in the sand and/or nap awhile, walk to town from the beach and come back and see what we thought. We walked about 1.5 miles to town and had fish and chips at the number one place to enjoy takeaway fish and chips (what we call to-go in the States). Sat on the pier and enjoyed our meal. The pier itself was very interesting - numerous yachts and fishing boats. We also say many people putting some kind of bait in small wire baskets and dropping them down the side of the pier with a long string. When the felt movement on the string they would pull it up with a crab or crabs in the basket! They all had small 1/2 gallon plastic buckets into which they would drop their catch and then lower the baskets again. Anyhow, when we walked back to the beach it was about 7:45 and, sure enough, all the sand on each side of the channel was covered with water! Wow!! I never dreamed such a huge area could be covered by a tide. We are talking about an area of about 16 square miles. I know this sounds crazy to a boy from West Texas, but it is true. You can see a cool demonstration of this by looking at the mapquest map of Wells-next-the-sea. Zoom in to the closest view you can with the satellite picture and you will be looking at the area with sand visible (picture obviously taken at low tide). Click on the map view and watch how much land disappears. This shows what it looks like at high tide. What a difference!

Day 20, Sunday (July 27th) -

We went to church with the Steffans at their church (on base). What a delightful congregation. It serves people of many protestant backgrounds with several chaplins whose primary desire is to share the salvation, love and lifestyle of Jesus with everyone there. We were privileged to worship here two weeks ago as well. After the service, the combined Catholic and Protestant churches had a big picnic on the grounds for all who wanted to participate. There were hotdogs (american style!) and hamburgers plus all the accessories (including funnel cake!). They had different games and activities for the kids, music, etc. It was delightful. Came back home for a slow afternoon of recuperating and for Lindsay and Justin to get ready for a busy week. Justin goes back to work tomorrow and Lindsay will be helping with the girl's vbs at church.
Day 21, Monday (July 28th) - Slow day today. The girls started vbs, so Janet and I spent the morning walking to the town center (about 2 miles) and did some sight-seeing and shopping. The Abbey Cathedral and Gardens is always so breathtaking that you can't ever get too much. The town center is filled with old to very old shops and we had several specific things we were looking for. We had an english breakfast while in town at a beautiful outdoor cafe. The weather is a perfect 65 - 70 degrees, with only a slight breeze.

Day 22, Tuesday (July 29th) -

Day 23, Wednesday (July 30th) -

Day 24, Thursday (July 31st) -

Finally got a chance to go in to the St. Edmundsbury Cathedral Ancient Library. A very kind lady, Margaret Stratham, who is a highly respected historian in the Suffolk area, had a key and gave up several hours of her time to allow me to examine and photograph 6 holdings in the library. The books are hundreds of years old so whenever anyone is given access to the library, a library staff member has to be present. I was able to examine editions of Euclid's Elements (printed in 1491); a 1573 edition of Tyndale's Works published by John Foxe; a 1539 edition of Chrysostom's Works edited by Sir Henry Saville; a 1569 Polyglot Bible with Hebrew and Greek; a King James Bible printed in 1611; a 1589 Geneva Bible. I have many photos of many pages of these works. It was so exciting to examine these books, reading pages that perhaps hadn't been touched in several hundred years. Again, pics will come when I have more time and internet speed. A few are on Janet's facebook site.

Day 25, Friday (August 1st) -

Day 26, Saturday (August 2nd) -

Day 27, Sunday (August 3rd) -

Day 28, Monday (August 4th) -