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.


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


Molly Malone.


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

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Temple Bar.


The Ha’penny Bridge.


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.

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Carnlough Harbour


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


Cushendun Caves


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

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.


The Iron Islands.


Giant’s Causeway


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




Exploring Belfast

We headed out this morning without a firm plan in mind. Walk around a bit, eat something and then figure things out. As it turned out, we had two tour companies on the street corner competing for our business just as we were looking for a pub. We took their info and while we were having lunch, looked over the pamphlets for the Hop On, Hop Off. In the end, we went with the company that had a double decker bus with a closed top as it was beginning to rain. We rode the bus while we listened to a comedic narrative from our host. As much as we wanted to stay on the bus and listen to his stories, we got off to explore the Titanic Museum. Until now, I was not aware that the Titanic had been built in the Belfast shipyards. The museum is located on the original build site of the Titanic. It provides a brief history of the industrialization of Belfast and the evolution of ship building in the yards. From there we were taken on an actual ride in a motorized trolley through a series of historic construction areas on the Titanic. Once off the trolley we saw a reconstruction of a first class suite and a 3-D interactive display showing the finished ship from the engine rooms through to the command centre at the top.  The museum is very well done and worth a look if you are ever in Belfast.

We left the museum and jumped back on the bus to explore the rest of the city. Unfortunately, we had a different tour guide and we both agreed that he must have been drunk. We had a very hard time understanding him and finally decided it wasn’t just the accent. Sometimes he was just mumbling and at other times we are sure that he fell asleep. We couldn’t really do much else but laugh but the rest of the tour was definitely a waste of money.

We got off the bus and headed for home. On the way we passed a small pub that had some live music coming from inside. We couldn’t just pass on by and spent the next 45 minutes listening to a young man playing some James Taylor, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd and other well known songs. He was very talented and we enjoyed it immensely. We spoke to him after his set and he will be in Ontario for a few weeks in July doing some work with the daughter of one of the ladies of the band Leahy. He is looking forward to coming to Canada and we assured him that the weather will be nice and warm for him. It was a great way to end the day.

Tomorrow we head out on a Game of Thrones tour. We certainly hope that we do not get the same tour guide!!!

The Europa Hotel.  The most most bombed hotel in Europe.


We dropped in at Whites Tavern.  The oldest Pub in Belfast.


A couple of iconic places in Belfast.  The Grand Opera House and the Crown Liquor Saloon which apparently was a Church at one time.


The leaning tower of Belfast.  It is about four feet off center.


The little Pub we visited on the way back to our flat.




The Peace Walls.

The Belfast Peace Walls are a series barriers that were erected to separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Northern Ireland. They are located in areas in Belfast, Derry, Portadown and elsewhere. The purpose of the peace lines was to minimize the violent interactions between Catholics (most of whom are nationalists who self-identify as Irish) and Protestants (most of whom are unionists who self-identify as British).

The Belfast Peace Walls range in length from a few hundred yards to over three miles. They may be made of iron, brick, and/or steel and are up to 25 feet high. Some of the walls actually have gates allowing passage during daylight hours but they remain closed during the night.

I was able to get a conversation going with the bartender at White’s Tavern and he told me that thankfully there is, for the most part, peace in Belfast but there is still a lot of tension.  Hopefully they can work it out someday in a peaceful manner



Leaving Scotland

As we sit at the quay waiting for our ferry to leave for Ireland, I am reflecting on the last week and our quick rip through Scotland. Starting in Edinburgh, to the Highlands, back down to Stirling then Glasgow, and finishing off in the beautiful coastal town of Stranraer, we feel that we caught the general essence of the country. The castles, the culture, the scenery and of course the people definitely give us cause to return for further exploration at a later date.

We look forward to visiting Ireland and find it hard to believe that at this time next week, we will be on a flight home. Where did these 11 months go?

Our Airbnb in Stranraer was one of the nicest we have had for a while. We were just feet from the water and the view from our room was great.

Off To Glasgow

Today we were able to drop off the car. Even though we enjoyed having it and it was great to get in all those out of the way places, all those out of the way places are ridiculous to drive in. I don’t know whether either one of us was ever completely comfortable behind the wheel. If you are ever visiting the UK and decide to drive, just remember that there are 67 million people in a country that fits three times into the province of Manitoba. So, left hand driving, lots of cars, lots of roundabouts and in many places, very narrow roads – it does not lead to a completely stress free vacation. Anyways, before we dropped the car, we went for lunch and then walked over to Stirling Bridge. This is the bridge where William Wallace defeated the much more powerful English army in 1297. The existing bridge however is not the original bridge but rather a stone bridge that was built during the 1500’s. Nevertheless, it is pretty impressive. We wandered around the park there, read the storyboards, took some pictures and said our goodbyes to Stirling.

Once we dropped off the car, we caught a train to Glasgow. It was a very short ride – only 30 minutes – so we were much too early to check in at our BNB. We walked down the main tourist street and were stopped by a very exuberant fellow. He had seen the Canada flags on our backpack and wanted to chat. He is originally from Glasgow but now lives in PEI. He is here now visiting his elderly mother and enthusiastically told us about the Tim Horton’s just around the corner and gave us directions to a couple of other places. He ended the conversation with “Keep your stick on the ice and keep your fu_ken head up” and headed off into the crowd. What a cool way to be greeted in Glasgow!!

Stirling Bridge…


Welcome to Glasgow..img_5697


Castles, Castles and Silly Movies

We headed out of Inverness and set our GPS to the Doune Castle, about a three hour drive towards Stirling. Today I was driving so Richard was able to see the beautiful scenery that he missed on the way up north. It rained off and on but for the most part, the drive was pleasant.

We arrived at Doune Castle at 1:00, had a quick lunch of pre-prepared sandwiches and headed inside. Doune Castle is a medieval castle built during the 14th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany. Doune reflects current ideas of what a royal castle building should be. It was planned as a courtyard with ranges of buildings on each side, although only the northern and north-western buildings were completed. These comprise a large tower house over the entrance, containing the rooms of the Lord and his family, and a separate tower containing the kitchen and guest rooms. The two are linked by the great hall. Though the castle has received restoration over the years, it is still very much like the original. We know this castle for the movies and TV shows that have been filmed here. It was the main filming location of Monty Python’s “In Search of the Holy Grail”. In fact, the audio tour is done by none other than Python’s Terry Jones. This entertaining tour features audio clips from the movie and a lighthearted, informative narrative of the castle itself. The castle has also been featured as Castle Leoch in the series Outlander and Winterfell in Game of Thrones. We felt that of all the castles we have seen to date, this one was the most authentic and well preserved. If you are ever in Scotland, this is a must see.

From the castle we drove onto Stirling and stopped at the Wallace Monument. This monument is a tribute to Sir William Wallace who fought for Scottish freedom against the English King Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks. The most famous battle was fought at the Stirling Bridge where the Scottish delivered a resounding defeat to the English troops. This made Wallace a hero in the eyes of his Scottish peers. If you have watched Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, then you will know that things did not turn out so well for Wallace. In 1305 Wallace was captured, drawn and quartered and his head was set on a spike for all his comrades to see. I think that the British thought that this would end the rebellion of the Scottish but as we know from history, war raged between the two for almost another 500 years.

We stopped at our BNB, dropped our bags and decided to walk up to Stirling Castle. The rain that had threatened all day finally fell and most of the walk up was with the umbrella. By the time we reached the top, we were informed that the castle had closed for the day. Though we weren’t planning to tour the interior anyway, we had hoped to get some pictures of the courtyard inside the walls. However, we had no such luck and we headed back down the hill. We stopped in the old part of town for a bite to eat (Richard again had some haggis which he seemed to like), headed back to the BNB, made some popcorn and settled in to watch, of course, The Holy Grail. It just gets better everytime we see it – especially now that we have see the the film locations.

Today we drop off our car and head to Glasgow by train. In a couple of days we are in Ireland and then Canada. Where has the time gone?!?!

Doune Castle


This picture is of the section in the kitchen where the fire was for cooking.  It was large enough to accommodate and entire cow on the spit.  The picture below show a section of the wall where the knives were sharpened.


Col and I posing with coconuts which were used to make the horsey hoof sounds in the Holy Grail movie.


Our favourite scene of the Castle from the Monty Python movie.

The Wallace monument…


Stirling Castle & Stirling.

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Robert the Bruce.

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Stirling Old Town.


My second meal of Haggis.  Not sure why people back home don’t like it.  I think it tastes fine.