My Latest Trip…
…or where in the world was I last time I got on a plane?
England and Belgium
- When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. — Samuel Johnson
I specifically planned my last vacation around a play I wanted to see in London. Kenneth Branagh was staring in David Mamet's Edmond at the National Theatre. Mike, my friend in Macclesfield, and Cait, my friend in Sawbridgeworth both came to London to go to the play with me. We spent a few days in London doing a bit — a very small bit — of sightseeing, dining, and drinking — more than a bit — together. We really had one full day in London, the day after I arrived in the UK. We started out early for lunch and managed to find a lovely Italian restaurant near Buckingham Palace, called L'Arco Ristorante. The food was some of the best I've had outside of Italy and we raved about it, especially the asparagus starter. After lunch we went to the British Library because they had an exhibition going on regarding the Lindisfarne Gospels that included other Celtic-style medieval manuscripts. After the exhibit — and after I spent copious amounts of money clearing out the Library Shop's supply of books on illuminated manuscripts — we headed off to Covent Garden to the Crusting Pipe for some jugs of Vintage-Character Port — a London tradition for Mike and me. Before we knew it, it was time to head off to the play, eat a lovely Thai dinner in a restaurant off the Strand, and head back to the hotel for a late-night drink before calling it a day.
The next morning we all went our merry ways with me heading to Sawbridgeworth with Cait. I had a few days together with her and her husband, Michael, and my first opportunity to see their baby boy — Niall — who was quite a character even at 7 months of age. What an adorable wee man, he is!
- In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown; thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the town. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Belfry of Bruges
After a few days, Cait and I took a short break to Brugge — two days and one night. I had never been to Belgium before and I found the experience quite enchanting.
There is definitely something magical about a country that has a chocolate shop every few blocks — not to mention quaint walks along canals, a wonderful store with shockingly affordable prices called Mille Fleurs Tapestries, and great beer!
We had lunch in the Market when we arrived — that's where we were introduced to Kwak Beer — and after that we explored the city by foot. We snapped a multitude of pictures of the Market and the city's buildings. The next morning we took one of the canal boat tours, which was a very nice way to see the city in a short time. After a bit more exploration by foot, it was soon time to return to the UK.
Some Bruge links…
Some favorite destinations…
There are many places that I love to travel to — among them Scotland, Wales, England, France, Italy, New York, New Orleans, South Carolina, and Germany but here are a few of at the top of my list.
- Here we feel as if we lived for a thousand years. I know Taormina isn't waiting only for me, it waits for all men. — D.H. Lawrence
As vacation destinations go, this one is truly at the top of my list of favorites. It combines all the elements for a great vacation — historical monuments and museums, sea and sun, beaches and pools, and wonderful food. Although I love traveling all over Italy — especially Florence and Venice — Sicily was one of those places that I fell in love with instantly. My favorite town is Taormina, which is located on the eastern coast of Sicily between the cities of Messina and Catania. Taormina is a picturesque place perched on a cliffside with views of the Ionian Sea, the Bay of Naxos, and Mt. Etna (the only active volcano in Europe) in the distance. It is a delightful town filled with stairs and narrow lanes, flowing bougainvillea, warm terra cotta, outstanding vistas, and delicious food. There are many delightful things to see and do in Taormina but two things not to be missed are — the view of Mt. Etna and the sea from the Greek Theater and eating at Ristorante U Bosso on via Bagnoli Croce.
When you're done exploring Taormina, take a drive along the coast heading northwest. There are many places to stop along the way but do not miss the village of Santo Stefano di Camastra. As far as I'm concerned, this is the undisputed king of ceramics for Sicily. Santo Stefano di Camastra is a small town, lined on both sides with pottery shops and design studios. It's worth the effort to drive out here to make your purchases — if you can choose from all of what's on offer! — The prices are substantially lower than anything you'd find in the shops in touristy Sicilian resorts and towns.
Sicily — Taormina links:
- Best of Sicily — Taormina
- Hotel Villa Belvedere–Taormina
- Best of Sicily — Sicilian Ceramic Art
- Ceramics of Santo Stefano di Camastra
- Where the rivers run clear and the bracken is warm in the sun. Where the cares of tomorrow must wait until this day is done. — from the Irish song, Come By the Hills
Ireland evokes different images — some humorous and silly — others haunting and melancholy. There are those who regard Ireland as a place of shamrocks and leprechauns and some who regard Ireland as a land of scholars and saints. These are mere stereotypes of a land which is rich in culture and filled with warm friendly people.
Ireland is a place that grasps your soul; it has a haunting allure that can not be denied. It is a land full of song and music, as well as natural beauty and dramatic coastlines.
Here are just a few highlights in a country filled with excellent sites:
- Dublin is a compact city, rich in art, theater, public gardens, and pubs. There is something here for everyone from the Guinness Brewery tour, to walks along the River Liffey, to Georgian Architecture, to shopping along Grafton Street, to music-filled pubs and more.
- Kinsale has some of the best restaurants in the country with it's gourmet Good Food Circle of eateries. My favorite was the * Blue Haven Hotel and Restaurant.
- Killarney may be quite touristy but the sheer beauty of the Gap of Dunloe, the Muckross Estate, and Killarney's Lakes make it worth the visit.
- Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is an interesting place to explore. Be sure to reserve a spot for the evening Medieval Banquet. Yes, I know it's touristy but it's still a fun experience!
- Donegal is my favorite part of Ireland. It is windswept and dramatic.
- Dunluce Castle along the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland is a breathtaking ruin perched above the sea.
Some links to Ireland:
- Bord Failte — Ireland Tourist Board
- Discover Northern Ireland — Northern Ireland Tourist Board
- Kinsale Chamber of Tourism
- VisitDublin.com — Official Dublin Tourism Board Site
- Kilronan House Bed and Breakfast — Dublin
- Bunratty Medieval Banquet