Client Adventure: The Smiths take on Ireland & the United Kingdom!

December 2013  
We began our trip in Dublin, Ireland. We joined another couple, friends of ours, who live near Sacramento. They had been in Portugal and planned to meet us in Dublin. We stayed in Temple Bar, the very lively center of Dublin with numerous pubs featuring live Irish music and dance.    
We found the Irish to be warm, friendly, and unpretentious. They engaged in conversation eagerly and were very proud of their heritage and successful Irish immigrants to America. We did a walking tour of Dublin; we visited Trinity College and the Book of Kells exhibit. St Patrick’s Cathedral, a tour of the Guinness brewery, and some local pub culture “research” were highlights of our visit. 
After Dublin, we rented a car and headed out for adventures in Galway. A beautiful coastal town, Galway captured us. We familiarized ourselves with the area by a walk-on, walk-off bus tour. After getting our bearings, we ventured out by foot to experience the city. The Quay had lovely shops, restaurants, and of course, more pubs. We enjoyed delicious dining in Galway.
After Galway we ventured out by car on narrow, winding countryside roads with hedges, rock walls, and oncoming tractors with little room to pass, on the wrong side of the road, or as the Irish say, “The right side of the road.” Our travel companion bravely negotiated numerous roundabouts before we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. After a night in Bunratty, near a castle, we visited a small, Irish town, Bruff. We stayed at a bed and breakfast. In East County Limerick, Bruff hosts an annual Bluegrass festival. The Bluegrass bands play nightly. We, of course, were quickly recognized as visitors, but they welcomed us warmly and treated us as one of their own. Our B and B hostess accompanied us until the wee hours of the morning and still served breakfast early the next morning. 
We flew from Shannon to London’s Heathrow Airport. After one night in London, we bid farewell to our friends and settled into the big city. London is multicultural, the hub of England and international commerce and history. We enjoyed tours of the royal castles, cathedrals, points of interest, and historical venues. We easily navigated the Tube through London’s city center. We began to realize history is in terms of centuries, not centennials, as in the United States. We attended a musical in the London theater district. There are so many incredible things to feature in London, but our highlight was the Churchill War Rooms in the Imperial War Museum. As history majors, we were moved by actually visiting the Cabinet’s bunker and hearing tape recordings of Winston Churchill’s own voice during the bombing of London in World War II. Much of what we visited in London has such significance in the shaping of our nation. 
After several days in London, we took a train to Edinburgh, Scotland. We loved Scotland. Much like Ireland, the people were friendly, helpful, and gregarious. We found Edinburgh easy to navigate by foot and enjoyed the exercise.
The castle in the city center, the Old Town, and shopping for Scottish linens were all quite alluring. We enjoyed the best dining on our trip in a restaurant near Old Town, Castle Terrace. Out of respect for our son, an avid golfer (and someone most of you know!), we hopped a train for a visit to St. Andrews, the Old Course. It is open to visitors and well worth the excursion. St. Andrews features Scotland’s first university, a castle, and ancient ruins on the lovely coast of the North Sea. Golf could not have chosen a more beautiful birthplace.
Finally, we visited the walled city of York, founded by the Romans. York is a shopping mecca with several narrow streets lined with small shops. This was the perfect place to grab souvenirs for our family. York is located on the convergence of two rivers, a lovely town with remnants of a wall encircling the city. After two delightful days, we boarded a train back to London and flew home.
After 37 years of working, the realization that we were finally visiting Ireland and the United Kingdom, long a dream trip for us, was very rewarding. We had several funny moments (some of which are inappropriate for this article) and experienced many interesting customs (we were surprised that we had to ask for our check after meals; it is considered rude to rush diners by appearing with the dinner check). We learned to eat later (most restaurants and pubs didn’t fill up for evening meals until 10pm!) and found the food much better than advertised (including a delicious Turkish restaurant in London). We sampled some Irish and Scotch whiskeys and thoroughly enjoyed our distillery tour and tasting sessions (differing Scotch regions had distinctive tastes). 
Overall, the trip exceeded our expectations, due in large part to the warm, welcoming people in each town or city we visited. It was a delightful experience. The locals treated us as one of their own making it a memorable visit.