The drive to the wheel is 1 ½ hours through some beautiful countryside and along the River Clyde. We saw a large rock in the middle of the river and a house on it near the water. This house was built to hide Mary Queen of Scots. They had heard that someone was going to kidnap the young queen so they hid her out here. Her father died when she was 6 days old and she became the Queen. We continued along, viewing homes, gardens and churches and finally arrived at the wheel. In the parking lot were two horse heads, they are called Kelpies here. They are a small replica of the original Kelpies that stand 30 meters high further away. The Wheel lifts the boat up 24 meters to the canal. We go through a tunnel and turn around on the other side. All the locks are
manually controlled and a man is positioned at each one of them. Being a lock operator must be a boring job.
From here we continue to Stirling Castle. The town is divided into lower Stirling and upper Stirling where the castle is located. Only one couple got off in the lower more modern part of town. The castle is very large and a lot of the rooms mostly empty. We walked around and I really liked the wood carvings of all the faces of royalty. I am amazed at all the flowering azaleas, peonies, daisies, rhododendrons and roses all in bloom. It is really pretty watching all the English Gardens as we drive by.
We got stopped on the motorway in Glasgow because of a 4 car accident and thought we were going to be late getting back to the boat. We made it just on time. One bus came in 45 minutes late as they got caught in traffic also. A pipe band marched up and down the dock with the large Scotty dancing behind them.
We popped the champagne that Terri & Mark sent us and sat out on our balcony to watch and listen. After dinner we went to the theatre and watched Uptown. Three young guys danced and sang such an upbeat performance. They were fantastic and we enjoyed the show immensely. What a great end to a wonderful day.
Saturday May 20
I am so grateful that today is an At Sea day. I am exhausted, we are averaging 10,000 steps a day and Barb’s hips are crying out for some relief. We started out with our honeymoon breakfast that Terri & Mark gave us. Wow, the purser brought so much food that I asked the waiter if we were having guests join us, LOL!! We had smoked salmon plate, fresh fruit plate, pastry plate and Quiche Lorraine. Along with that we had champagne, orange juice and coffee. It was too cold to eat out on the balcony so we were set up in front of the windows and had a very enjoyable meal.
We walked up to the 16th floor Skywalker deck and around to the front, went to the Thermal room to see what it was all about. We don’t have our bathing suits so the shower is out, the sauna is too steamy for Barb, she is already having trouble breathing in the hallway. There was an aroma therapy room and a room with hot lounge chairs. A large man was laying naked except for the towel that covered his privates. So we decided we didn’t want to lay on a lounge with him there, we will come back another day. We asked if we could change it for a foot massage but she said there are no changes. So off the front of the ship and then to lunch. We ate with a couple from Montreal Bill & Lydia, who do a lot of cruising. They were a lot of fun and very interesting that after our meal we sat and talked for a while before going back to our room. With having a balcony it makes no sense to be pushed around and put up with all the noise to sit and read. I worked on pictures and Terry read up on our next exit from the ship and played some solitaire. In the evening we went to the theatre to watch the Princess singers and dancers put on a Broadway Ballroom Show. It was just awesome and they did a great job even with the ship bobbing and weaving in the water. After this was over we went and watched ballroom dancing were a lady was teaching the waltz. It was fun to watch mainly the men trying to do this. One oriental couple picked it up quickly and they were very good. From here we went to the Explorer’s Bar and were joined by another couple from California. We played trivia as a team but only got two answers right.
Back to the room to watch some news of the States and to bed.
Thursday May 18
We woke up in Belfast to another beautiful day in the sun. The breeze is cold in the shade but if you are in the sun it is wonderful. We climb on a shuttle bus and head into the city. We got on a City Bus Tour and headed out. We are interested to see the wall between the Catholics and Protestants. The bus starts out going to the Titanic Museum. The Titanic was built here and was one of their biggest and best of ships until it sank. We decided we didn’t want to walk around the museum so we stayed on the bus. We didn’t realize that this was the only stop. We traveled passed St George’s Market, Queen’s University and to the political area where the wall is. We are amazed at the size of the wall. During the war as it got worse the wall got higher and each time was made my different material. Started with cement, wood and then chain link and barb wire. The peace between the religions is still tentative today. The tour guide said they are afraid that it could start again at any time. They have amazing murals on the wall of the barrier. The gates of the wall are still closed nightly and the guide emphasized that if you were not on the correct side of the wall when they did, you may have to stay the night until they opened in the morning.
Through the town they have murals dedicated to those who died and those who sacrificed their lives. Bobby Sands was the first to die during a hunger strike. We finished our tour going around the Belfast Castle and Gardens it was high up and you could see the whole of Belfast from up here. It is chilly out and we are traveling in an open topped bus, brrrr.
We got back to our start and asked one of the other tour guides directions to a pub, he said follow me! As we got off the bus it had begun to rain and by the time we got to the pub it was pouring. He took us up to the second floor and made sure we had a place to sit. By the time I turned to thank him, he had gone! We had a great meal, Terry had a brisket sub and I have a chicken wrap. An appetizer was Potato Pots and we ordered one, it was great but was just roasted potatoes with bacon. While there, it stopped raining but when we left it was pouring again. We stopped at a bakery and bought some soda bread as they said it was the most awesome thing. Since it was pouring we decided to head back to the ship. By the time the shuttle bus pulled out the rain had stopped.
Some interesting photos on our day tour of Belfast, mouse over for an explanation:
We had dinner at the Island Dining room and joined 6 other people. It was a fun table with teachers and a professor of veterinary medicine. We left right after dinner though as it was almost show time. Tonight was the second time with Paul Baker but it wasn’t as good as his first show – isn’t that always the way, your expectations are higher after a good thing. We stopped into the Explorer's lounge and watched some of the Pentatonics. Soon our old age set in and we are ready to go to our room put on our pj’s
Wednesday May 17
Second day in Dublin. This day we are on our own and Barb found a park that is a hidden gem with fountains and a waterfall. Well we walked and walked and then crossed through a cute park with sculptures and a water fountain. The trees were in bloom and tulips were also, daffodils have already finished. It must have been beautiful here when they were in bloom as there are tons of them planted around. Finally we made it to Iveagh Gardens. Well the water is turned off and there are no flowers. This was a waste of a trip and we could of done Merrion Gardens which was right beside the shuttle drop off area. We head back to the tourist information area and get tickets for the hop on hop off bus and head to Guinness Storehouse. We have to walk about three blocks to pick up the bus and pass a flower seller on the street and a girl doing chalk art on the sidewalk. Our first hop off is Guinness and off to the tour. It is very well done and covers 6 floors of displays and working vats. We watched a video on how they use to make the barrels and those men sure were in shape. We got to go to class and learn how to pour our own glass of Guinness and we both got the head just proud of the rim. Then upstairs to the Gravity Bar. This bar has windows for a 360 view of Dublin and was very crowded. I drank my glass and Barb’s. We were shocked when we got out and found out we had been in there for 3 hours. Then we got on the wrong bus and had to jump off at the next stop.
Got on the right bus and headed around downtown Dublin on the bus. We passed the new needle called the “Monument of Light” that was built to replace the sculpture of Nelson’s Pillar which was destroyed by an IRA bombing in 1966.
We got back to the shuttle area with enough time to spare to get a picture of Oscar Wilde laying on the rocks.
Now back to the boat and not long after we are leaving shore and heading to Belfast. We walked over 11,000 steps and we are both exhausted so down we went to supper. We sat with a couple from San Francisco and had a very nice meal with them. My chicken was a bit dry. We haven’t done much of the evening stuff as we are just too tired. After dinner we went up to the room and watched a movie and went to sleep early.