Sunday, December 13, 2015

Trip of a Lifetime

If you've ever read my novels, you've probably noticed that I have a deep love for Ireland and Irish mythology. Every time I needed a new character to do something specific for my story, I would look through their mythology and find a creature that would do exactly that.

My dream for the last few years has been to travel to Ireland so I could see everything my books had talked about. I wanted to experience the Emerald Isle for myself. Partly so I could enjoy what I've grown to love, and partly to make sure that my research had steered me in the right direction for my novels.

This last August, Delta Airlines had an amazing sale using their air miles and I had the chance to do something I never thought I'd be able to do. We got to travel to England, and from there, we went to go to see Ireland and Scotland.

We left last week and started out in England. While my books have not been set there, I still got to go see some amazing things while I was there. The British Museum is full of artifacts that the British Empire stole from countries all over the world. Chinese, Japanese, German, and on and on. Every time I thought we were done, we'd find another whole wing of items. The Rosetta Stone is even in there.

But then we found out that one of the exhibits was about the Celtic culture. We bought our tickets and I went into devour everything I could learn about them. It was rich in history and had many items from that time. I was sad I couldn't take pictures while I was in there, so I tried to soak in as much as I could about the Celts and their history. MY history because these were my people. 

We also made at stop at King's Cross Station so I could get my photo with the cart going into Platform 9 3/4! 

The next morning we were off to Ireland. We took a train from London up to Holyhead, and then we took a ferry to Dublin from there. Amazing. Although I wasn't too fond of the up and down from the waves on the ferry. I got used to it about ten minutes from shore ... after a four hour trip.

We went right to the center of Dublin, and because we got there after all the sights had closed, we just walked around the streets to catch a glimpse of what we could. We found a memorial for those who had fought in wars, and a few cathedrals, and then we made our way back to our hotel.

I'd hoped to make to either the Blarney Castle or to a small forest near Kilkenny because they were both parts of my books, but we just didn't have enough time. The lady at the hotel warned us that while we could have gone to Blarney, it would have been cold, windy, and rainy. Not ideal when you want to climb 90 feet to the top of the castle...

We decided on a small place called Kilkenny. It was a 2 hour trip by bus, and then we stored our baggage at a hotel while we were there (Thanks to our concierge lady from the hotel in Dublin. She'd called in a favor.) 

Oh my goodness. It was the most amazing little place. The streets were cobbled in the pedestrian areas, and the stores were small and had the cool Celtic font the I love so much, and oh, there was a castle just hanging out in the middle of it.

We toured the castle and saw tapestries that were older than our country. It had been refurbished a few different times in it's history and was owned by a family until the 1920s when it was turned over to the city. 

Yeah, that's a castle. Just hanging out right there.

The dungeon
The whole castle. There used to be four walls, but Oliver Cromwell knocked one of them down.

My favorite little shop.

Afterward we went to lunch at a little pub that was in a home built in 1049. The owner was a woman who was charged with witchcraft, but she'd managed to escape before they burned her at the stake. The walls were a rough brick, and it was so cool to be eating in side a place that was so old. Plus, the Irish stew was to die for.

We'd planned to catch a bus back to Dublin so we could see Dublin Castle, St Patrick's Cathedral, and the leprechaun museum, but the bus didn't come for another five hours, so we were stuck in the most perfect little town ever. I didn't want to leave, so I counted it as a blessing that got to stay longer than we'd planned. 

Since we wouldn't get back in time to see anything in Dublin, we took the bus to the airport and went to our hotel. After dinner, we went right to sleep so we could get up at 4:30 in the morning to go catch a plane to Scotland. 

The plane actually took off at 7, but we still had to make the trip back to the airport from our hotel, and then walk back and forth to get from security to baggage claim and then to the plane. It was small and cramped, but otherwise it wasn't too bad. The ticket were also only 9 pounds, so we couldn't complain. 

We started out in Glasgow and walked around for a couple of hours, staring up at the architecture. It was amazing! It was colder than Ireland and we had to take our bags with us everywhere, so we didn't stay there for very long before hopping on the train over to Edinburgh.

They say that Edinburgh was built on seven hills. I'm pretty sure we walked up all of them. Okay, not really, but it felt like it. This was one place that showed up in my fourth Luck book so I wanted to get some research in. We also passed by the little shop where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Pretty cool!

After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we made our way over to Edinburgh Castle. Our plan was to go there and tour, and then head over to Holyrood Palace since both places were in my book. We missed the Holyrood Palace tour by eight minutes. Bummer.

BUT the Edinburgh Castle was amazing. Every wall was filled with the history of Scotland. We saw cannons, towers, dungeons, old bathrooms, bedrooms, a military memorial, and my favorite, the crown jewels. That part actually gave me some great ideas for this last luck book. So be watching for it!

Afterward, we talked to a lady about our family names and ended up staying there to talk for at least an hour. She was wonderful to talk to, but as we talked, it started raining outside. I'm not talking normal rain. I'm talking heavy, soak everything you own rain. We still made our way over to the palace (and just missed it) so we could at least get a picture, and then headed back to the hotel. We did try one souvenir shop, but we were too wet to actually want to buy anything. They tried to get us to buy an umbrella, but by that time there was no point. When we got back to the hotel, we had to empty out our bags, pockets, and everything else so we could use an iron and blow dryer to dry our clothes out. It was crazy! 

The next morning we headed back to England. The countryside was beautiful as we traveled the four hours back down to London. We took our stuff back to the same hotel we'd stayed at before and boarded a tour bus. We got to see Big Ben, the tower bridge, Tower of London, several cathedrals, and the London Eye. Sadly it was too dark to see Buckingham Palace, but I still enjoyed the tour. Afterward we walked over to Piccadilly Circus and toured the area. We found Hamley's toystore that had been there since 1760. Holy moly. We wandered through the streets again to find dinner and then made our way back to the hotel to collapse.

We only had one more morning, so we stored our things and took a train over to walk along the Thames River and to go see the tower of London. We didn't have a chance to go in, but we did stop at the gift shop, so that counts, right? We hopped back on the bus again, and toured through London, but had to get off before Buckingham Palace (sigh... we missed it twice) so we could get on a train and sprint back to the hotel to get our stuff so we get catch a train to the airport. 

While we sat there, we found out that the area we'd traveled through from Scotland to London was flooded. It was crazy! 

It was the most amazing trip we'd ever taken, and while we could have used another month or five to see everything we wanted to, I counted myself lucky that I could see the places that my characters had traveled in my books.  If you ever have a chance to go and research the places you write about, take it. Enjoy it. And soak in every ounce of history you possibly can.