Featured

Beginnings:

Welcome to Richard & Colleen’s excellent adventure blog.

This blog has been created to document our RTW (Round The World) trip which is planned to start sometime in June or July of 2018.  As Col is the literary giant in our partnership she will be providing the majority of the blog content, but of course I will chime in from time to time with my own input.  We ask for your patience as we learn and navigate through the world of blogging.  Our hope is that through this blog our family and friends will be able to take part in our journey, participate in our ups and downs and be with us as we set forth on our adventure of a lifetime.

  • IT’S THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION.
  • CARPE DIEM

Rediscovering Manitoba

As we travelled the world we met some wonderful people. The dialogue was usually the same: Them: “We’ve always wanted to come to Canada” Us: “Well, now you can come and stay with us!” “We’ll show you around”. The thing is – what would we show them? What does little, old Manitoba have to offer the people from countries that have castles, pyramids, mountains, cathedrals and temples? As it turns out, we have so much to see! Because we look at it every day, it does not seem so special to us. But, look at it from a tourists’ eyes and the views are spectacular!!

Take Birds Hill Park, for instance. This park has been our temporary home for the last couple of months. We walk the trails and ride our bikes without really seeing. However, as my dog loped in and out of the swaying grasses, I took off my jaded glasses and put on my traveller ones. What a fantastic place! The trees are teeming with bird calls as the wind whispers secrets across the plains. The flowers are exploding in colors of yellow, purple and orange. The wide open spaces and the huge, blue sky envelope the landscape.  As we walk out of the bush, through the campground, we hear sounds of people starting their day, smell the campfires and the coffee, and silently nod and wave to others taking their morning stroll. There are many kilometers of paved bike, horseback and hiking trails, a recently expanded beach, the campground, of course as well as many day use areas. It is home to the world famous Winnipeg Folk Festival in July. During this four day festival, the park explodes with campers and music lovers. This delightful oasis is just a few kilometers from Winnipeg and is only one of many that dot the Manitoba prairie. 

My hometown of Russell has always been just that – my hometown. Nothing spectacular at all. However, with my new glasses, I start to see past the humdrum. The bright yellow canola fields, and the soon to be harvested wheat and barley fields all waving in the distance. The trees along the roadways loaded with Saskatoon berries, soon to be picked and made into pie or frozen for a delightful treat during the long winter. The green hills rising above the Assiniboine River as it snakes its way through the valley. The absolutely amazing hiking and biking Trans Canada Trail that runs through Russell and beyond, joining small towns like its predecessor, The Great Canadian Railway. 

From Russell, my Mom and I drive a few miles north of Roblin to take part in the Keystone Pioneer Museum Show Day. My family has been involved with the KPM for many years and in fact own one of the many buildings on this 10 acre lot. The Museum embraces all things pioneer from antique tractors and farm equipment, to a general store and a one room school house display. Our family has one of the oldest (and largest) tractors on display – A 1916 Minneapolis Moline – bought by my grandfather many years ago. Most of the tractors still run and later in the afternoon, after threshing displays, kiddie rides in the old school van and wood sawing demonstrations, there is a tractor parade where everyone shows off their oldest machine. It is a cacophony of sound that vibrates across the grounds and spectators place their lawn chairs at the optimum spots while the rest of us that have been recruited to drive make a couple of circles around the buildings, each of us hoping that we actually remember the quick instructions of brake, clutch and gear. The museum is open during the summer on Monday to Thursday 1 – 5 PM. It’s well worth the trip. 

On your way to Roblin, don’t forget to stop and check out the Inglis Grain Elevators. These five wooden prairie giants will take you back to the golden years of the Canadian Grain Trade. They are open for self guided tours everyday from noon until 6 from May to September. 

The Asessippi Ski Resort Area and Resort is the largest ski area in Manitoba. For the past 20 years, it has been developed into a first class resort. Not only are the hills covered with skiers, snowboarders and tubers in the winter, it is now the home of a number of cross country bike trails for the summer months. There is always an adventure at the Ski Hill – just ask Jon Montgomery or Mark McMorris!

Back in Winnipeg, I also begin to see a city that is teeming with history and culture. Though I travelled here everyday for work for almost 40 years, it was always just a city. A place to see a movie, go to Costco, Walmart and the mall and complain about the traffic. Though I still complain about the traffic, I now see a city with the St. Boniface Cathedral and the legend of Louis Riel, the world renown Human Rights Museum, Assiniboine Park – home to the Winnipeg Zoo, the polar bear exhibit, the famous Botanical Gardens and Ballet in the Park, Folklorama and the Fringe Festival, the trendy Forks and Corydon Avenue, sports home to the Jets, the Bombers and the Goldeyes. So much to see and do in the Peg.

Every year we head to Spruce Woods Provincial Park on the August Long Weekend to ride our horses and reconnect with friends. Though we no longer have horses, I am still lucky enough to have friends that are willing to let me take a spin on one of theirs for a day or two. A few leisurely hours spent riding through the hills, having lunch along the trail with an evening of sing song in front of a campfire to finish the day is definitely one of my favorite things. 

Camping, swimming and boating on any one of 100,000 lakes along with weekend festivals and rodeos can keep any person busy for the entire summer. An evening on our friend’s pontoon boat, cruising the Winnipeg and Bear Rivers, rounds out an already perfect weekend spent in Pine Falls with friends and family. There really is no shortage of things to do in this beautiful province of Manitoba. So, for all our new friends from around the globe – Come on over!! We have lots to show you!!

Trans Canada Trail at Russell

20190722_07333920190722_072438

Keystone Pioneer Museum – Roblin

20190722_144950

St. Boniface Cathedral – Winnipeg

20190717_134803

Louis Riel Memorial – Winnipeg

20190717_134859

Hogsback at Spruce Woods Provincial Park

FB_IMG_1566499211777

Moving Forward

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on when in your heart you begin to understand that there is no going back?” Though I would like to take credit for these words, they are not mine. They belong to the Hobbit Frodo, who, after returning home after a most amazing adventure, realizes that his life will never be the same. Though we did not battle Orks, nor conquer Mount Doom or even come close to Mordor, we do understand his lament. We have come home to the most wonderful family but do not have a home or jobs. We have looked at condos, houses and mobile homes. We have considered ownership and rental. We have signed up on Linkedin and Indeed and sent out our resumes. We are doing all the things that need to be done.
Yet, we feel that there is a bigger picture that at the moment is just out of our reach. Surely this past year cannot be just be about a vacation. It has to mean something. Perhaps it is the first year of the the rest of our lives. Searching, always searching….
We have always been taught that the key to success is goal setting. My goals are to continue writing daily and to spend more time with my Mom. I have had a couple of pieces published in the local Russell and Pine Falls papers. I continue to submit articles to local papers and contact others. Some are quite interested, others, not so much. Unfortunately, none of them pay (though I might get a free meal or two from my Mom!!) Are these goals too small? The big goal is to write a book and make a million dollars. Is that goal too big? Or is it just a dream? I think that I read once that goals are dreams with a timeline. So, I set a timeline. Stay focused. In the meantime, winter is coming and we need a home.
Isn’t it funny how you can travel for a year, being vagabonds, moving from place to place, yet once back in a familiar setting the need for permanent roots becomes so strong. We search for a firm footing, a place to call our own even as the ground beneath us continues to shift. We must move forward. We must keep living. We must keep dreaming. We must. There is no going back.

Our Home

20190712_095252-4.jpg

My Office.

20190712_093003-3.jpg

Manitoba!!

As we travelled across the wide open prairies from Alberta to Manitoba, we couldn’t help but comment on how large the space is compared to the countries in which we had just travelled. We are so spoiled here in North America with the amount of space that we have that we have become lazy with our resources and our stewardship of the environment. In all the countries that we visited, laundry is hung, not thrown into a dryer, public transport is used rather than individual vehicles, and recycling is a big part of the garbage program in Europe of which we have only just begun to establish. We have made ourselves a vow to live simpler and more conscientiously. That should be pretty easy when you are living out of a 400 square foot motorhome!!

We decided to drive straight through and arrived at the Russell Peace Park at 1:30 AM so thought that it might be a little late to call in on my Mom. After a few hours sleep, we walked over to my mom’s and as she wasn’t expecting us until later in the day, she was almost speechless. It was a wonderful reunion and we spent a couple of hours hugging and talking before it was time for her to head to church.

We spent the next couple of days with my family but got some tragic news on Tuesday evening. Richard’s Dad passed away at 5:30 PM after spending a satisfying day planting his garden. It was quick and sudden and though a blessing for him, it left the rest of us reeling in shock. We said hurried goodbyes to my family and early Wednesday morning headed down to Pine Falls to be with Richard’s Mom and siblings. We grieve that we were unable to see him before his passing and share some of our stories with him. He loved life and whenever Richard spoke to him during our journey, he was interested in the history of the area and the things that we were doing. His sense of humor was always present and we are quite sure that he and St. Peter are sharing a chuckle as Bertie says “Have you heard the one about….?” We will miss him immensely!!

We have parked our camper at Robin and Garrett’s and though we’ve been here less than 24 hours, we have already fallen head over heels in love with Scottie, born last September. It has only been a year since we left but it is unbelievable how much the other two girls have grown. Allison is a young lady now at the age of five, graduating from Pre-K at the local French school and Landyn is talking non-stop with questions about absolutely everything. So much fun!!  Though I was lucky enough to see Luke for a few minutes yesterday as well, we will hopefully be able to see more of Logan and Luke today or tomorrow, the last of our grandchildren to see.  Looking forward to it.

The next few days will be busy with funeral arrangements, family visits and catching up with everyone. Though the circumstances are not how we had planned or hoped, we are glad to be home with our family.

received_588773484944811.jpeg

 

received_348493032526098.jpeg

Coming Home

Our journey from Dublin to Edmonton was uneventful but very long. By the time our head hit the pillow in our motorhome in Hinton, we had been going for about 27 hours. I had about an hour sleep on the plane but other than that, not much else. Unfortunately, our bodies were still on Ireland time so we only managed a couple of hours sleep before they felt we should be up and going again. After three days we are now getting our internal clock back into a proper sleeping routine and managed about 6 hours last night.

Blair met us at the airport in Edmonton and we drove straight back to Hinton – at least a six hour round trip for him. He dropped us off at Hilary and Dane’s and we spent an hour or so visiting before the two hour sleep fiasco. Norah had waited up for us and the hug she gave me was what I had been missing all these many months. It was exquisite – so full of love and innocent abandon. To be hugged by a child is divine. We met our new granddaughter Indiana, now seven weeks. She is, of course, perfect. She is sleeping, eating and pooping like most that age but she is also cooing, smiling, and laughing at her own little personal jokes. I am sure she wonders who these two grey haired folks are that keep zooming into her focus!!

The boys went golfing on Saturday and the girls spent the day talking, catching up and watching the baby sleep. I borrowed Hilary’s jeep and Norah and I went grocery shopping and got a treat at Dairy Queen – just normal stuff. However, it is still part of the adventure for me – driving a car on the right hand side of the road, not having to convert currency at the grocery store, holding hands with my grandaughter as she chatters us around the store with all the wisdom of the world from a 7 year old’s perspective. The best line of course being, “Wait, how are you going to pay for all these groceries? You don’t have a job!” Ahhh, from the mouths of babes.  

The Hinton family all got together at Blair’s for a barbq that night. The grandboys were not quite as enthusiastic to see us but nevertheless, we got our hugs and squirmy kisses before they all rushed to play on the trampoline. As we sat in Blair’s back yard, enjoying the evening sunshine and the fantastic food and company, I couldn’t help but think that this is really the destination. Family is the ultimate goal. What do we spend our life striving for if it is not to be with the ones you love at the end of the day? No matter where we travelled this theme resonated everywhere – parents with their children, couples holding hands, grandparents and grandchildren. Love is all around us.

Though we are happy to be home and are enjoying spending this time with family, we are missing our free and easy travel lifestyle. As we sadly unpacked our backpacks, we reflected on how we managed to live in four shirts and two pairs of pants for 10 months. Our camper is full of clothes and yet we still only want to wear these clothes that were a part of our great adventure. Will this feeling pass? Will we ever feel comfortable living a routine? Are we square pegs trying to fit in round holes? Where will we live? What will we do? Can we leave the family again? So many questions and so many possibilities.  

20190601_153016.jpg

Around The World In 338 Days.

We have literally travelled around the world. As you read this post we are crossing the Atlantic from Dublin and will land in Halifax. We left Vancouver 10 months ago heading south and then west across the Pacific. Our original departure and final arrival is Edmonton. Yes, a true circumnavigation.

During the last 11 months (we actually left our home in Russell, Manitoba on July 2 and lived in our camper for five weeks in and around Hinton, Alberta), we have travelled by planes, trains and automobiles, caravans, buses, and boats through 30 countries. We have ziplined in New Zealand, hiked Table Mountain in Capetown, South Africa, safaried in Tanzania, witnessed life and death on the Ganges River in India, rode a camel around the great Pyramids of Egypt, cruised down the Nile, spent Christmas Eve in Bethlehem and walked in Jesus’ footsteps in Galilee and Jerusalem, explored the ancient history of Athens, Rome and Pompeii, witnessed the horror of the Holocaust at the sites of Dachau and Auschwitz, empathized with the citizens that for years lived behind the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, wandered across the Belgian and French countryside remembering the sacrifices that Canadians made for our country and the world, and followed our history through the streets and roadways of Great Britain and Ireland. We are having trouble processing it all and as I write this last travel post (oh, don’t worry folks, you haven’t heard the last of me yet!!), I am overwhelmed by the things that we have seen and done. And we have barely scratched the surface of this great, big world.

An adventure like this would not even be possible without the support of our family and friends. Our parents, our siblings, our children and grandchildren gave up a year of life with us so that we could follow this amazing dream. And along the way we have met so many people that have touched our lives, from all our amazing Air BNB hosts, to the Intrepid and Expat tour companies in India and Egypt, the customer service personnel in airports and train stations that helped us untangle the sometimes complicated web of arrivals, departures and bag collection, and of course, the stranger on the street who, seeing our lost expressions, came to our aid with directions and helpful hints. And though many of these names will mean little to you, our readers, they have meant a great deal to us and I would be remiss not to give them special mention in our blog. Richard’s sister Louise and brother-in-law Rick Welwood opened their home to us for the first leg of our journey in Hawaii. They lost a whole week’s revenue from their BNB suite just to put us up. Thanks guys – we appreciate it! Our first point of contact in Australia, my cousin Norman and his very generous friends Sasha and Ruth, who opened their home with open arms to a couple of strangers – thank you for feeding us, teaching us the ways of great coffee making and how to eat Vegemite and showing us the sights of Sydney and beyond. Our Air BNB hosts Liz in Te Anau and Su in Rotorua, New Zealand – you are such beautiful people and we are so glad that we got to spend some time learning about your families and your lives. Thank you for your generosity of time. Darryl and Shirley, Elina and Ephata and the rest of the team at Dashir Lodge in Tanzania – you have something so special here. We left you feeling refreshed, revitalized and strong in spirit. May the Lord continue to bless you. All the folks that we met through the tour groups in India and Egypt. It is so amazing to meet people from all corners of the world who love to explore culture and history like us. Thank you for becoming our friends and may you continue to travel the world over. To my long lost cousin Glenys and her husband Ron in England – what a joy to meet you and I am so pleased that you continued your search into the Wileman family and tracked us down. Our encounter has only triggered my imagination and determination to find more of our family members around the globe. The Joneses – cousins and lifelong friends of my parents – may we carry on the friendship through the next generations as well. The young man on a tour bus in Belfast who mentioned that he was touring with the King and I performing in Dublin and when we expressed interest, offered to get us tickets. Thanks JP. It was a great show!! And after a chance meeting in a swimming pool at a small resort in Zanzibar, striking up a conversation, asking their advice on where to visit in the Emirates, Lionel, Martina, Elena and Cedric opened their home to us for an incredible week in Muscat, Oman. We were practically strangers when we arrived with our backpacks at their door. We expected only a few hours of their time, some helpful hints to explore the area and a shared meal or two. Instead we received their full generosity of room and board, a tour of the city, many meals together and an opportunity to witness a cohesive, family unit navigate a very different world from ours. We will be forever grateful for your kindness and friendship. We look forward to reciprocating when you come to Canada! Without all these people touching our lives, our journey would have been mediocre at best. Thank you all.

And thank you, dear readers, for your comments, suggestions, and support. Because we knew that you were waiting for the next adventure, we continued to write and post even though some days we did not feel like it. As a result, we have a wonderful record of our travels. After logging over 52,834 miles by air, 6,338 miles by rail, 7,714 miles by car and 2,300 miles on foot, we can honestly say “What a Wonderful World”

The King and I and The Last Supper

Well, obviously, not THE last supper but rather the last supper of our most excellent adventure. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we met a young man who was playing in The King and I here in Dublin. He reserved tickets for us at the box office and we went down to see it this afternoon. Our seats were great and the musical was fantastic!! We enjoyed it immensely.

Because the show is about the King of Siam (now Thailand), we thought that it would be fitting to have our last supper at a Thai restaurant. As we chatted over our last meal, we shook our head in disbelief that we are now done our “trip of a lifetime”. When we got back to the BNB, I had an email from my cousin Glenys in England. She  mentioned that she and Ron have been catching up on the blog and are amazed at all the places that we have visited. She closed her email by saying “You never know, there may be ‘Excellent Adventure 2’ “.   She may just be on to something there…..

Our last official photo of Richard & Colleen’s Excellent Adventure.

img_5901

Thank you Col for not thinking I was completely crazy when two or three years ago I said, “Hey, why don’t we quit our jobs, sell the house and travel the world.”  You have been the best travel companion I could have hoped for.  Thank you for putting up with me and being my rock.

We did it……..

The Easter Rising and Celtic Nights

Being the history buffs that we are, we have thoroughly enjoyed travelling through Great Britain and reliving much of the history that we learned in school and or in adulthood, either from movies or books. Where we seemed to be lacking knowledge was in the history of Ireland. We decided it was time to set this right and made a date at the GPO – the General Post Office and the headquarters for the Easter Rising and Rebellion in 1916. In a nutshell, tired of British oppression and the inequality of the classes,  the rebellion was launched by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in the First World War. Though they appeared successful for the first day or two, by the end of Easter week, the rebellion had been suppressed and the leaders were captured and consequently executed. Over the next several years, British and Irish and then Irish and Irish were at odds resulting in the division between Northern Ireland (Loyalists) and Ireland (Republicans). Over the years, as we know, there has been infighting and squabbles between the two countries. Though peace has been tentatively achieved at this point, one Irish fellow from Dublin that we talked to a few months back in France was concerned that Brexit and the establishment of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland may again cause some conflict between the two nations. Let’s hope that he is not correct and that this beautiful island can continue to live in peace.

After the museum, we stopped for a drink at the local pub while waiting for the doors to open at the Arlington Hotel for our evening of dinner and celtic music and dance. We were not disappointed and the videos that Richard is sharing will tell more of a story than I ever could. Enjoy!! We certainly did!!

The Celtic Experience.  A great meal and traditional Irish music and dance.  Personally, I love this music and dance and it was a real thrill for me to take part in it.  Loved it.

Day One – Dublin

We arrived at our BNB on Monday evening in the pouring rain. Amazingly enough, it was the first time in almost 11 months that we arrived at a destination soaking wet. We managed to meet our host and get inside. Once we dried off and settled in we had a very nice chat with our hosts. Coincidentally they both work for Air BNB which is located in Dublin and is the app that we use to find all of our travel homes. How interesting. They gave us some ideas to keep us entertained for the next couple of days and we finally headed off to bed.

This morning we hopped the bus towards downtown with our first stop being at Trinity College where Richard went to see the Book of Kells. This is a library that houses many old manuscripts, the most famous being the gospels. These date back to 800 AD. He will have to give you more details on that. From the college we tracked down the statue of Molly Malone. Though she was not a real person, she has become famous as the subject of the very popular Irish folk song “Sweet Molly Malone”. It tells the story of young Molly who is a fishmonger and peddles her wares up and down the street. Unfortunately, life is not kind to Molly and she dies of a fever. Why this song became so popular, I really do not know. Regardless, we joined the rest of the folks lined up to see her and took our turn taking her picture. Ah, sweet Molly Malone.

After lunch, we stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral founded in 1191. It is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and with its 43-metre spire, St. Patrick’s is the tallest  and the largest church in Ireland. Just down the street from St. Patrick’s is Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin’s oldest building and spiritual heart of the city. It was founded in 1030. Both churches are spectacular and well worth a visit.

Our next stop was Dublin Castle – which doesn’t really look like a castle at all! It is a major Irish government complex, conference centre, and tourist attraction. Until 1922 it was the seat of the British government’s administration in Ireland. It was a key target during the Easter Rising of 1916, which marked the first step towards the end of British rule in Ireland. We decided not to tour this “castle” and moved on to Temple Bar.

Now, Temple Bar is actually a busy riverside neighbourhood, spread over cobbled pedestrian lanes. It is home to many pubs, restaurants and quirky shops. We had heard that a visit to Dublin would not be complete without stopping into the Temple Bar Pub. So, that’s what we did. It was a Tuesday afternoon and the place was packed with people – most of them singing along with the musician on stage. It was incredible and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves singing along too. It was quite infectious. We ended up staying for an hour or so, just drinking in the whole atmosphere (as well as a couple of beers and a G&T).

Leaving Temple Bar, we crossed the Ha’penny Bridge. It is a pedestrian bridge built in May 1816 over the River Liffey and is officially called the Liffey Bridge. However, locals still call it the Ha’penny Bridge because when it was first built, a toll of a half penny (ha’penny) was charged to each pedestrian to cross. This toll continued to be collected for 100 years and in 1919 the turnstiles at each end of the bridge were removed.

By this time, it was late in the afternoon and we turned for home. We debated about taking the bus back but in the end decided to walk. It was a little longer than we thought but we grabbed a bite to eat along the way so it wasn’t so bad. We’re planning our day tomorrow which will include a Celtic Night Dinner and Show. Now that should be fun!!

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells, one of great treasures of medieval Europe, is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing four Gospels of New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created by Celtic monks some time around 800 AD. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy, employing decoration that is not only extraordinarily rich and colorful but also, in places, deeply enigmatic. It is widely regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure.  A very interesting part of the display was a demonstration how books were made in the 9th century.

The  Book of Kells

Trinity College Library

img_5805-1

Molly Malone.

img_5812

St. Patrick’s Cathedral and some of Ireland’s famous people buried there.

Image result for st. patrick's cathedral dublin

img_5817img_5814img_5815

Temple Bar.

img_5855

The Ha’penny Bridge.

img_5862img_5864

Game of Thrones and Beautiful Northern Ireland.

Today we were up early and headed downtown for our 9 AM meet for our Game of Thrones tour. We had 51 people on our tour and started out a few minutes late but the tour guide, Moira and driver Philip were fantastic. We drove through Belfast and saw a few of the same sights that we had seen the day before. However, today we were able to understand the tour guide as she explained to us what they were about. We headed out of Belfast along the coast road and we were happy that we were just passengers and not drivers as the bus made its way along the narrow, winding roads.

Our first Game of Thrones (GOT) location that we drove by was Castle Black, home of the Night Watch. Unfortunately, this is not yet open to visitors so we just had to ooh and ahh as we drove past. It is pretty magnificent. Our first actual GOT stop was at Carnlough Harbour. This seaside port is where Arya Stark comes out of the freezing cold water in Braavos after being stabbed a number of times by the Waif.  Interestingly enough, this was also the vacation home of Winston Churchill and during the war he held many of his top secret meetings here. It is also the home to Paddy the Pigeon who was an Irish carrier pigeon awarded the Dickin Medal after being the fastest pigeon to arrive back in England with news of the success of the D-Day invasion.

Our next stop was the Cushendun Caves, tucked away on an elevated beach in the beautiful and tranquil village of Cushendun. This cove in the Stormlands is where the unforgettable scene between Melisandre and Davos takes place. Here she had the shadow baby that ultimately kills Renly. We had a few minutes here to take pictures and even without the GOT connection, it was a beautiful spot.

We stopped for lunch at the coastal, vacation town of Ballycastle. This pretty little town has a core population of about 3000 but during summer months this can soar to 7 – 8000. A few miles down the coast is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This rope bridge connects the mainland to a little island that is used by fishermen. On calm days, you can pay to walk across the bridge to the island. If you recall, I did not do very well with the rope bridges in New Zealand so had absolutely no desire to walk across this one. However, due to high winds, the bridge was closed so I did not have to justify my decision to anyone. However, the views of the rugged coastline from the carpark were magnificent so it was well worth the stop.

The next GOT location stop was Ballintoy Harbour which has served as Pike, the Iron Islands and part of Dragonstone. Five different episodes were filmed here from Theon’s return to the drowning and rebirth of Euron. It is one of the most picturesque parts of Northern Ireland and looks out to Rathlin Island and on a clear day, you can see Scotland.

The Giant’s Causeway is one of the Natural Wonders of the World, one of Ireland’s prized treasures and was our next stop on the tour. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea.  Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places. Interestingly enough, there are identical steps across the sea in Scotland. This leads to the legend that the Irish Giant Fionn MacCool was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he is. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn would be unable to chase him down. As our tour guide says “why ruin a perfectly good story with facts?”

Our last stop of the tour was The Dark Hedges. This beautiful avenue of Beech trees planted in the 18th century serves as the backdrop for the portion of the King’s Road where Arya Stark makes her escape from King’s Landing. So cool!!

And then we headed back to Belfast. As we have mentioned many times in this blog, it is the people that make this journey interesting. On the tour we met a young couple from the Philippines. Joaquin Pedro, JP for short,  is touring with the cast of The King and I and they are currently performing in Dublin. After some discussion, it was decided that we will be seeing his afternoon show on Thursday. How cool is that!?!? Very excited!!

Today we head out to Dublin for our last four days. We are very excited about coming home but sad that this incredible journey is coming to an end. It has literally been, “The Trip of a Lifetime”.

The wall at Castle Black.

Image result for the real wall of castle black in Ireland

Carnlough Harbour

img_5759

Image result for arya stark coming out of the water in carnlough

Col is standing on the spot where she was coming out of the water.

img_5760

Cushendun Caves

img_5773img_5772

No Col, don’t go in that cave.img_5766img_5768img_5765

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

img_5777img_5780

The Iron Islands.

img_5784img_5783

Giant’s Causeway

img_5787img_5790

King’s Road… Yeah I know it looks better in the series.

img_5799