Hey, I’m Still Here. I’ve Just Been VERY Busy.

It has been too long since I have posted. Since this is a travel blog, the absence of posts means I haven’t been traveling. My last post was about an upcoming trip that was to be the first I’d ever done that was planned by a company. That trip was finished and my mission was accomplished, the family members got back alive. I hope they had fun.

I learned I did like not having to worry about all of the details, but not enough to do away with the planning and spontaneity of my usual trips. The guide was excellent and had a very difficult job in keeping us all in line. The company we went through was terrible. I won’t get into the details, but they know what they did.

The past few months have been spent moving my mother first, and then myself a bit after that to New Jersey. The reasons for that are long and complicated and quite boring. The main takeaway is I am very glad to be in a much more populated part of America. Many airports within a few hours drive through which I can book cheap flights as they become available. Which brings me to my current trip to Aruba.

This trip has several firsts for me. It is firstly my first trip to Aruba. It will be a quick one, just three full days. The reason for the brevity is the second first of this trip. My first mileage run.

For the past year I have had Platinum Medallion status with Delta and I find myself just under the threshold for that again next year. I had a little money, and a little bit of time to try to book a short trip to just barely scoot across the finish line before the end of the year. The sweet spot, just enough in one trip and at not too much of a cost turned out to be Aruba. There are many perks to having status with an airline. They change from time to time, but it is always better to have it than not. For the travel that I do at this stage in my life, Platinum is about that best I can hope for. I’ll take it when I can get it, so I’m going to try and get it.

This brings me to the third first of this trip. My first trip to South America. When I was looking at a map of Aruba, it occurred to me that it was really close to Venezuela and it go the thinking, is Aruba part of South America. I talked to the most learned friend I have (a “nerd” like me in the jive talk of today’s youth) and we figured if the island of Aruba was on the continental shelf of South America, geographically it must be a part of South America. It turns out it is. So this will be my first visit to South America.

Now, if that seems to you that I am kind of “lawyering” my way into a trip to South America after only booking a trip to the Caribbean, I would not argue with you. I do plan to go to South America proper in the future, just not on this trip. If I should expire on or after Aruba, I will die knowing in my heart that I did visit my fourth continent. For real. Should I not die on Aruba, there are three other continents that can expect a visit by me for the first time. Not in the near future, but one day. Right now there are three trips booked after Aruba and they are once more to the Caribbean and twice to Europe.

This trip may also be a last one for my dear, sweet passport. It expires in 2019 and I need to get it renewed in plenty of time for those trips. It may make it to St. Lucia in January, but if not, Aruba will be its last stamp. We had a lot of good times together and I will always hold it dear to my cheese clogged heart.

This Will Be A First For Me

Travel is about new things. Well, it is for me at least, and I’m about to do something I rarely do coupled with something I have never done. I usually travel solo. That’s because I hate everyone….. always. No, no….that’s a joke.I usually travel alone for a bunch of reasons and I’m fine with that. There are some places where I would prefer to travel with friends, but usually I can get along OK by myself. So this trip that starts today is already an outlier for me as I will be traveling with several relatives, but the biggest challenge I will have to overcome this trip is that it is being put together by a tour company.

I’ve never had anyone set up air, hotels, tours, etc. for me. I usually do it all. I also do most of the planning when I travel with others. Mostly due to the fact that by now I have lots of experience. Letting someone else do all the planning was difficult. I have status with an airline and I take advantage of all that comes with it: extra bags, faster passport control, nice (sometimes posh) lounges. I got lucky, they booked it through my preferred airline! Since we are on the same reservation, they can get some of my perks. Maybe not the lounge access, I can only get two guests in not five, but something is better than nothing.

Now all I have to do is show up. The rest is supposed to be taken care of. My biggest concern right now is that we hit the ground running and I can’t sleep on planes. I’m going to try again this trip. My fingers are crossed. I also awoke at 3am today (8am London time) to get ready. I really need to get where I can sleep on planes. I’m getting older and my current system of staying awake 24-30 hours straight and sleeping 16+ hours the first day is getting mire difficult.

More from London soon.

Dublin Snow Day

St. Patrick’s Day was cold and had snow flurries, but a storm moved in that night and dropped a surprise snowfall on the eastern part of the country.

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I was fine with this, I like snow. Probably because I doesn’t happen much where I live and when it does (or even thinks about it) the city shuts down. Since I was on a trip, I figured I should get a better feel for how Ireland handles the snow before I decided to stay in for the day.

I got my gear together and went down to the hotel’s front desk to ask how Dublin handled this type of weather. The lady at the front desk told me this storm would be only a minor nuisance, the one two weeks ago was so severe that the staff of the hotel had to stay there for five days. There were only a few inches on the ground and the roads were not terrible so I decided to head to the city and see if I could salvage some of the day.

While there was not a lot of snow, there was a lot of wind and the snow was still coming down. I caught the first bus headed back to town, but we almost didn’t make it out of the bus stop due to the slick road. The driver said that he was pretty certain that as the day went on there may not be many more buses headed out to that stop. The trains were running but with some delays, so I knew I could make it back if things got worse on the roads.

Once I got to Temple Bar in Dublin, almost everything was open. The wind and snow were brutal. I decided that I’d grab some food and then hit a bookstore to stock up on the Sunday newspapers and then head back to the hotel. I didn’t want to get caught away from the hotel if they decided to stop the trains and busses.

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I love reading newspapers and the ones in Ireland and the UK are some of my favorites to look through. Even the bad ones are worth it. In the US, I can only get my local paper and the NY Times, so 6 or 7 sundays from two countries and I’m in heaven. My boss jokes that I’m that one guy who still gets the newspaper. I get two a day and wish I could get more. “But you can read them online!”, you say. It’s not the same, but I won’t go into that.

I grabbed a different bus back, they had altered the route on my usual one, and made it back in the early afternoon. I spent the rest of the day reading the papers.

 

Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade

I thought long and I thought hard and I came to the conclusion that I haven’t even been to a parade. I have seen a few on TV, but never stood on the side of the road as one marched by. If I were going to have a first parade, the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day parade would be one of the top ones to open up with, right?

Well, the weather forecasts were correct, I did get colder and windy. It was spitting snow and right about freezing with a stiff wind. My new hat was the difference between a small Irish head cold and certain death by pneumonia. Best €20 I have ever spent.

After figuring out that the buses were on a Sunday schedule due to the holiday, I got down to Temple Bar a little later than I had planned to, which in the cold weather was probably a good thing. I grabbed some coffee and was able to find a good spot to watch with only one shorter spectator in front of me. Not bad for getting to the site about 1 hour before the start. Over the next hour my spot got over 6 deep.

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I’m not sure, but I think this was the mayor
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Behind the horses was the poop sucker. He got some of the loudest cheers.

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I’d rather be this guy than the grand marshal
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It was really cold.

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The Univ. of Illinois marching band were a fan favorite

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The grand marshal came early in the parade in a vintage Rolls-Royce.

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Grand Marshal Davos Seaworth (er, Liam Cunningham)

And there were pipes and drums

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And then the bug-people came out

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I have to give much respect to the color guards and baton twirlers who marched the whole route AND smiled the whole way. Especially those from Stephen F. Austin University in Texas. They looked the coldest.

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There was a high school band from Minnesota who looked like they were enjoying the warm weather compared to what they left back home 🙂 I was freezing after being out there for a few hours. It was worth it, but I would like to come back and see another parade when it is warmer.

Dublin Was Founded By Vikings

I woke up on day two with the head cold at about the same level as the day before, which was a good sign. I grabbed a bus into the city center with the plan of getting some sight-seeing done, buy a hat, and maybe buying some cold medicine.

I am not very good at packing for multiple climates on the same trip. It was fairly warm and spring like back home, but was supposed to turn cold and windy on St. Patrick’s Day. On my last trip, to Switzerland in January, I brought two jackets and only wore one of them  the whole trip. The heavy one just took up space in my suitcase. It was also unseasonably warm and snow free. This time, I wasn’t going to be made a sucker of by the weather. If I needed at hat, I’d buy one there. A practical souvenir and it would be green, which I needed more of for the parade.

I stumbled upon a store that sold Irish wool items on my way to the Irish National History Museum and grabbed what would probably be a life saving hat.

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The Snoopy pin I brought with me. The hat is new.

I love museums and figured that I’d spend most of the day at one I had not been to before: The National Museum of Ireland – Archeology . It is housed in this very cool building right next to the National Library (which I didn’t make it to this trip, stupid cold).

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Right as you walk in, there is a cool mosaic of the zodiac.

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The photos do not do it justice.
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All hail the mightiest of the zodiac: the Fish-Goat!

The floor of the museum is filled with great mosaics. Sadly, many parts are covered by exhibits and ramps. As much as I hate to see them covered, I’ll settle for seeing some of them and having people in wheelchairs have access. That’s a no-brainer. It would be cool if they had a book of images of the full mosaics for sale.

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The museum exhibits were very interesting and covered Irish pre-history up until the end of the middle ages. Turns out that Dublin was founded by the vikings, which was new to me. They have a few bog-bodies, as well as other non-human things that have been thrown into or lost in the bogs over the years. They also have a very nice gift shop which is always a bonus on any trip to a museum.

After I spent a few hours in the museum, I wandered around the shopping areas around Trinity College and it was starting to get fairly crowded. I decided to grab some food and start making my way back to the hotel. Tomorrow was going to be long day filled with the parade crowds and I didn’t want to use up all of my energy dodging them today.