April 27 to May 3 - Dublin and Belfast
After several anxious days watching the ash cloud, our flight from Orlando to Dublin left on schedule. By the time we travelled, it had dispersed over Europe and normal air service had resumed. Our neighbour Derrick Strub was kind enough to take us to the airport, for which we are very grateful. The flight was uneventful and not completely full, which was something of a surprise. We took a taxi to our hotel, the Hampton, a very nice boutique hotel located a little way from the city center, but the best part was that after a long flight, our room was ready when we arrived.
The Hampton Hotel The Brazen Head pub
After unpacking and a few hours sleep we took the bus into Dublin. The sun was shining and we throughly enjoyed walking around the city. After a drink at The Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin we headed back to the hotel for an early night.
We woke the next morning to another sunny day and headed into the city for a day of sightseeing. All major cities have a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus and Dublin is no exception. We hopped off at The Guiness Storehouse a museum dedicated to, you guessed it - Guinness. Next stop was Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and Dublin's oldest cathedral, St Patrick's, where Jonathan Swift was Dean from 1713-1745.
St. Patricks Cathedral Guinness Storehouse
Later in the day we attended a really bizarre production of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray at a wonderful old tea room called Bewleys. An upstairs room was set up for afternoon tea with tables and chairs crammed into a space that was really too small to accommodate the audience of about 30 plus the 3 actors performing in the center of the room. The warm weather, lack of air conditioning and the cramped quarters caused at least one old man in the audience to fall asleep and for many others to catch themselves as they started to drift off. After about thirty minutes the play started to drag on and on and on and I think the enthusiastic applause as the play ended was more from relief that we could escape the cramped room.
The next day we took the train from Dublin to Belfast where Paul's sister Sarah was waiting at the station to meet us. We spent a very enjoyable three days with Sarah and Paul's 10 year old niece Jenny at their beautiful home on the outskirts of Belfast. On Monday morning Sarah took us to the airport for our flight to Blackpool and after saying our goodbyes we walked into the departure hall. To our horror we quickly realised that we were at the wrong airport. Belfast has two airports and our flight left from Belfast International. Thankfully Sarah answered her mobile phone on the first ring and rushed back to Belfast City Airport to pick us up. Thanks to Sarah we arrived at Belfast International with time to spare.
Jenny and Sarah
May 4 to May 19 - Family in the UK
We arrived into Blackpool airport from Belfast, once again beating the ash cloud, which closed Belfast airport later the same day. We rented a car, which we used throughout our stay in the UK, dropping it off at Leeds / Bradford airport on the day we left for Italy. We spent the first few days in Lytham, with Joan, Kristine's mum.
After three nights , we split up and Kristine went to stay with her sister Carol and brother-in-law John for a few days. Paul took the hire car and drove to Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales, to stay at his sister's house, all alone.
Carol at the Marina standing on their boat and the nearby Lancaster canal
The day following his arrival in Reeth, Paul and his mother Freddie drove to Bradford to hear The Moscow State Symphony play at St. Georges Hall. The program included Borodin's Polovtsian Dances, Rachmanininov's Rhapsoldy on a Theme of Paganini and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. It was a long way to drive but they both agreed it was a very good concert and worth the effort.
After a few days with Carol. Kristine and Joan drove to Lindale to stay with Kristine's son John, daughter-in-law Sharon and grandsons Daniel and Aaron for one night. Kris and Joan really enjoyed the visit and are looking forward to getting together again in September. They then carried on to Reeth to join Paul.
John, Kristine, Sharon, Aaron, Dan and Joan
The weather in the Dales was cold but we enjoyed meeting up with Paul's mother Freddie and visiting Harrogate, Richmond and Leyburn.
Jonty, one of Freddie's dogs and Rush Hour in the Yorkshire Dales
At the end of the week we drove back to Lytham in both cars. On Saturday night we attended a Pops Concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, the Halle Orchestra performed a spanish program including one of our favorites, Concerto de Aranjuez but the highlight was Ravel's Bolero. The following day Kristine and Paul went to see the revitalized docks area in Salford and in particular, the Lowry Museum.
The next day (Monday), Paul and Kristine said their goodbyes to Joan and drove back to Reeth. We stopped at a couple of restaurants in Hawes, to see if they would suitable for Paul's 60th birthday and although we both liked Simonston Hall, we felt it was too far from Bedale, where we will be staying.
On Tuesday, Paul went over to his Mum's house and did various odd jobs, such as securing a window box for plants and adjusting the water heater. It took most of the morning and as he was trying to leave, he kept getting caught up in conversations with locals and couldn't get away.He finally made it back to Reeth about 1:00 pm. In the afternoon, we went to Masham to look at another restaurant, but it was very small and we weren't mad about the menu. On the way back, we met Paul's Mum for dinner at the Sandpiper Inn in Leyburn and enjoyed the meal so much, we may use it for Paul's birthday.
The next day, Wednesday was cleaning and leaving day. To be fair, Kris did most of the work, washing sheets and towels and cleaning the bits of the house she didn't get round to the previous day. By the time we locked up at midday and headed for the Premier Inn near Leeds/Bradford Airport she was exhausted.