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Amsterdam

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Here is the final (finally) post on the British Isles Cruise – and not a minute (er, week) too soon. In just a couple weeks we are off again to another Mediterranean adventure, this time in Spain and along Italy”s northeast coast. So, more to come in the not too distant future. In the meantime, this one is a couple days late. We have just begun a major renovation project in our Florida home, and the main part of the house will be – at times – inaccessible, making my computer difficult to reach. Stay tuned …..

Amsterdam was our port of departure from the ship, and so we had to disembark, and get our luggage to our motel near the airport for our flight out the next morning. We were all pretty tired and we purposely had not made any plan for tours that day. Instead, we went down to the center city and walked around. Amsterdam has always kind of been known as the “anything goes” city, and we at least had to stroll down the “Red Light” district, and walk around to see the marijuana dispensaries. It is a pretty wild scene. And we were there during the day. I can only imagine how it ramps up after dark. In that part of the city, you can smoke in any of the bars, and there are shops everywhere, so that the smell of marijuana smoke was pretty obvious, as we walked though that part of the city. As you can see, even though we have now “legalized” canabis in many of the states here in the U.S., we have a lot of “catching up” to do to get even close to the marketing now done in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In spite of all the craziness, most of the city is comprized of things you would expect to see in many other European cities. Along with Bruges, Amsterdam is considered part of the “Venice” of the north. Situated along the eastern shore of a peninsula which separates the North Sea from a large, protected inlet (Markermeer and Ijsselmeer – “meer” translates roughly from Dutch as “broad” or “large” lake), eventually feeding a large canal that ultimately crosses the entire peninsula and empties into the North Sea (at the very northeastern end of the English Channel). This allow for an impressive canal system within the city, and it is known for its Dutch Architecture lined canals. The buildings all have “false front” gables, and in general, each individual gable has its own characteer, distinguishing it from the adjoining buildings.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There are also some rather grand buildings in the main downtown area of Amsterdam, as well as a couple very striking museums and other municipal buildings, replete with flowers and fountains one might expect in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Like most larger cities, there are also some quiet back streets that border the busier areas, with local bars, and restaurants.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

One thing that kind of stood out to me what how much less ostentatious most residents are with their modes of transportation. Though we saw alot of this throughout Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands, the bicycle was an extremely popular mode of transportation. This was more prevalent in Amsterdam than in the other places.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I also noticed that Amsterdam seems to have a firm commitment to alternative energy sources. There were charging stations for electric vehicles available right in the downtown area.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam appears to be a significant hub for flights and connections throughout Europe, and I suspect we will be their again – perhaps for a longer period of time. I will Look forward to that, based on our very short time there.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

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Bruges

Bruges, Belgium

We ancitipated Bruges, which our research touted to be “The beer capital of the world.” We had a 1/2 day tour scheduled at the beginning, which in addition to some historic sites and buildings, was to also include some chocolate and beer tasting. Belgium is know for its chocolate, its waffles, and its beer. Unfortunately, we recieved a call from our guide who was driving from Brussels, as we waited out by the cruise terminal. He was tied up in traffic from a major accident and it didn’t look good that he would be arriving any time soon. We ultimately cancelled and took a taxi into the city. Even though it doesn’t seem far on the map, it was a good 1/2 hour drive, and during that time our driver – whose English was excellent (though his native language is Dutch), gave us some historical context.

Port of ZeeBrugge
Burges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, was perhaps one of the earliest Belgian cities, rising in medieval times and becoming a major trade center at the Renaissance emerged. It was strategically located near the sea (our port of call was Zeebrugge, which means “Bruges by the Sea”).

The Markt
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There is a continuous canal from the port in to the center of the city. Its most prominent feature is the Markt, a large oval plaza, surrounded by colorful and impressive architecture; today mostly retail establishments catering largely to tourists. Our cab driver dropped us off on a quiet street directly behind the Markt and we made arrangement for him to pick us up and return us to the cruise port later that afternoon. As we walked into the open plaza, it became immediately obvious that this was a photogenic scene. Lining the plaza on one side are some very colorful buildings with Dutch Colonial architecture, belying strong Dutch influence. There are some pretty impressive historic buildings, including a belfry that dates back to 1240, once the center of the town on the other perimeters.

The Markt
Brussels, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Belfry is about 272 feet high and it towers over the surrounding buildings.

The Belfry of Bruges
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Belfry of Bruges
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges City Hall also faces the Markt and is an impressive building.

Bruges City Hall
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

WWe arrived between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m., to a city that – surprisingly – had not seemed to have awoken yet. We walked around some of the surrounding streets where there were no vehicles, few people, and shops that had yet to open.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges is also a city with numerous canals, and has been referred to as the Venice of the North. Having spent a fair amount of time in Venice, I can say that while the canals in Bruges (and Amsterdam) are impressive and lie in beautiful surroundings, they are very different from the canals of Venice. Notably, there are automobiles everywhere. Having said that, I will be among the first to agree that Bruges’ canals are photogenic.

Rozenhoedkaai Canal
Bruge, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Indeed, canal tours are among the most popular thing to do in Bruges, and certainly afford a great way to see the city.

Canal Tour Boad
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In addition to tasting some of the local brew and chocolate, we did walk around the old city and saw a few other nice sights as we walked.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Ultimately, we found some beer, we found some chocolate, and we ended up a nice, rather relaxing day in Bruges at Cuvee Wine Bar, where we had a couple nice wines, and some cheeses and meats, before heading back to the cruise port. Back at the cruise port, as we sat on the back bar enjoying the late sun, a drink and the sail-away, I wasn’t sure whether to feel safe, or threatened, given that the ship moored directly behind us was most certainly not a pleasure cruiser. It appears that they make them a bit smaller than we do stateside. πŸ™‚

Military Aircraft Carrier
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

An American (or four) in Paris

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Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Ah, Paris! It conjures that accordian music and a bustling city (with some Gershwin in the background). And food. It was all there. Our next port of call, LeHavre, was just a short ride accross the English Channel. We arose and left the train early, for another train ride – this one 2 hours.

Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

This cruise, as I have noted previously, was rather unusual for us in that the ship docked overnight in 3 of our ports of call (Dublin, Cobh, and LeHavre). In our experience this usually happens, if at all, in only one port. In this case, not only did the ship dock overnight, but it did not depart LeHavre until midnight of the second day (technically you might even say it docked for two nights). We took full advantage of this time, booking an overnight stay in a Paris Hotel, and we had most of two very full days in Paris.

Champs-‘Elysees
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I have learned from travel in other countries, that shooting from a moving train is essentially impossible, and I have really given up trying. So all I could do was enjoy the French countryside as we headed toward Paris.Β  And the bulk of the trip was countryside, with many small, and very well-kept farms. I wanted to stop the train a number of times and just get off and shoot. Maybe someday.

Paris, France

Much like our London experience, less than 2 days is really not long enough to see Paris. There is just too much. Several days would be easy to fill.

The Louvre
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

But we were a little better organized, here, with pre-purchased tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower, a walking tour around the Notre Dame Cathedral and neighborhood, and plans to use two forms of public transportation which really worked well for us – the “Hop on – Hop off bus and boats.”Β  While we again only scratched the surface, I think we were able to see the main points of interest we had, including the Cathedral, the Louvre (outside only), the Eiffel Tower, Champs-‘Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Eiffel Tower is probably the central icon of Paris, and it is one of those landmarks that is rarely out of sight, wherever in Paris you might be

I overdid the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know how many images of it I made, but I know more than I really needed to.Β  We saw it from the river, from the tour bus, and from various points on the ground. And I shot it. I shot it at night and I shot it again during the daytime. The Eiffel Tower is probably the central icon of Paris, and it is one of those landmarks that is rarely out of sight, wherever in Paris you might be. So I had lots of opportunities. We knew we would be on the grounds of the tower the first evening – we were up on the top for the sunset – an unforgettable experience. But I had also done some research on vantage points to shoot it from. One of the best turned out to be Place du Trocadero,Β a plaza directly across the Seine from the tower.

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

From the grounds, it was difficult to shoot. The same dynamics as I mentioned in London were at play here. It is a massive structure, and perspective is just impossible up so close. But there were still some interesting and perhaps dramatic images here, especially at night.

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As we left the grounds the evening we were there, I saw a nice reflection opportunity. In another life (or on another trip), I would like to go back with a tripod and better equipment and explore this a bit. But I was happy enough for handheld, point-and-shoot results in this case.

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The next day, I shot the tower again; this time from the Seine. There are more, but these are probably enough for now πŸ™‚

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Next to the Eiffel Tower, the one thing I wanted to see most was the famed Cathedral Notre-Dame de-Paris, with its gothic architecture and 850 year plus, majestic wooden spires and roofline.

Catheral Notre Dame de_Paris
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The news of the fire on April 15th (just short weeks before our visit), destroying much of the old wooden infrastructure, including spire and rooflines that were made from wood timber construction, was heartbreaking to viewers around the world. I had been looking forward to seeing the inside and grounds. We were fortunate to get some good views from the exterior, but the interior is not accessible to the public at this point, and a large, opaque construction fence surrounds the entire grounds, so that only views from farther away are possible. I hope to return someday, and see the entire thing.

Catheral Notre Dame de_Paris
Under Reconstruction
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

What you can see of it It is still magnificent.

Catheral Notre Dame de_Paris
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We met our walking tour guide at a small cafe in the neighborhood of the Cathedral. These tours are free (you can find them and similar tours in most cities). They are usually given by locally attending students, or members of local art, history or acting programs. Our experience has been that our – normally youthful – guides are enthusiastic, fun and very knowledgable of their subject. The normal treatment is to give them a gratuity, usually what you think appropriate. We have tried to be generous over the years, knowing they are usually young students and truly appreciating the value we get from the. I highly recommend that you seek these types of tours out and partake. We have never been disappointed.

Cafe Odette
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Cathedral is on an island in the middle of The Seine. The cafe was on the mainland, on the south side of the river, known as “The Left Bank,” and directly across the main street is the Saint Severin Roman Catholic Church. Originally built in the 11th Century, the church is one of (if not the) oldest churches in Paris.

Saint Severin Church
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Saint Severin Church
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Originally built as a smaller church, in the Romanesque style, it was enlarged years later, and today had Romanesque and Goth styles combined. The interior, much of it believed to be authentic original construction, includes impressive arches and stained glass.

Saint Severin Church
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Saint Severin Church
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

After spending a few minutes in Saint Severin, we walked across the bridge to the front of Notre Dame. We learned that the Cathedral is not only a church. It is a neighborhood and much of the surroundings made up that neighborhood.

Catheral Notre Dame de_Paris
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The quiet little street in the image here could really be a quiet back street in almost any city in the world. But it happens to be in the famous Notre Dame neighborhood.

Notre Dame Cathedral Neighborhood
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

After our tour, we boarded one of the “Hop on – Hop off” bateaus (boats) for a cruise up and down the Seine. Making images off a moving boat is only slightly less challenging than from a moving train or vehicle. Nonetheless, you do have a bit more mobility, and I was able to make a few “keeper” images.

Paris from The Seine
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Paris from The Seine
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Île de la Cité
(Notre Dame) from The Seine
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Louvre
from The Seine
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

T
The two days went by fast, and we were soon enough, boarding the train for the ride back to LeHavre and departure for Bruges. But there will be many memories of Paris, and anticipation of another visit in the not too distant future. One of the best memories will be being at the top of the world on the Eiffel Tower and seeing the sunset over that same Place du Trocadero that we had photographed the tower from earlier that afternoon.

Sunset over Paris
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

 

Day Two in County Cork

Tourism; Celebrity Cruises
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our overnight stay in Cobh, gave us the unique opportunity to plan two days. We knew exploring Cobh would be a day’s activity, and it made sense for us to “play it by ear,” and do that on our first day, depending on our arrival time and knowing we had later flexibility. I had made the most of my shooting the day before, and as we had an early appointment that morning, I elected not to try to go ashore for the early morning sun. But I was able to make some images from the ship. The military (naval, I think) facility was actually an island directly across from our stateroom balcony.

Military Facility
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I work hard most of the time to keep people either completely out of the image, or just a small – perspective-giving – part of the image. But the opening image of the camera-wielding tourist (no, not a selfie πŸ™‚ ) underscores that as hard as I work to isolate images and find quiet places, tourism is a huge business and there are very few places like this in the world where there aren’t people – from all over the world – everywhere.

Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The two primary attractions for us in County Cork (after Cobh) were Cork City and Blarney Castle. Unfortunately, we did not do Cork the way we should have and learned later that we had missed a very neat part of the city. We did find a couple local pubs, a candy factory, and a nice church.

Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

But Blarney Castle was our primary destination. My wife has become a pretty seasoned and expert travel planner, and based on her research, we knew there would be long lines to get into this very popular attraction. And, once inside, there would be additionally long lines to climb to the top, and to kiss the famous “Blarney Stone.” Her intel told us the best plan was to get to the Castle just before it opened. We didn’t want to depend on the train or finding our way to the castle from the Cork station, so she arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the Cobh port and take us to Blarney Castle. It was a well-informed decision, and we only waited about 10 minutes before we were inside the grounds. We headed straight for the turret and there was no wait to climb the steep, circular stone stairs to the top, and only about a 5 minute wait for the one person in our group who actually kissed the stone. I am told that one of the “blessings” the stone gives is “the gift of gab.” Most who know me will attest to the fact that I didn’t need that blessing :-). Of course, in order to see and kiss it you have to lay on your back while two “spotters” hold you nearly upside down, from a considerable height.

The Blarney Stone
Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

From the top of the castle, the vantage point gave a pretty good “birds-eye” view (see what I did there? πŸ™‚ ) of the surrounding countryside.

Views from Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The details and construction of these thousand-plus year old castles is amazing, right down to the use of stained glass windows.

Stained Glass
Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We spent a few hours walking the grounds, which included a beautiful Gothic Stone house (which is actually owned and occasionally occupied by a private family), nice gardens, stables, and lawns. I was able to make (I think) some nice images of the grounds and the castle.

Home on Blarney Castle Grounds
Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Gothic Home on Grounds
Blarney Castle
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As I noted at the beginning, we really didn’t get to see much of the city of Cork. We only really had a couple hours following the Blarney Castle tour to get back to the ship. Our taxi driver happened to know the owners of a confectionary and took us there, just a few blocks from the city center. Unfortunately, the owner – though there – was not actively making candy at the time. After buying some sweets, we made our way back to the city center.

Linehan Confectioners
Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We walked around a bit. It was like many others that we have visited, with pubs, coffee shops (of course, a Starbucks), and other touristy things. We learned later that there was a city tour of part of the old city of Cork that was pretty nice. Perhaps next trip.

Cork, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Returning to the ship was a bit of an adventure. The walk to the rail station turned out to be much longer than we had anticipated, and we then had to figure out which train to board. Fortunately the crowds were small and we were in the company of lots of other folks heading the same direction. It was raining steadily when we arrived, and fortunately, the train platform was almost directly across the dock from the ship. Another good day in Ireland, and our last. We would head now to London, Paris, Bruges and Amsterdam.

As we returned to the ship the previous night, I was able to make a nice image of the approach to our Cruise Ship mooring. Tourism has certainly become an economic boon to many places and has grown (in some cases out of control) exponentially in the last 10 years. Cobh was clearly no exception and they made it clear that they welcomed the influx.

Cruise Port
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In my mind Ireland was the best part of the trip and even a little bit magical. I have little doubt that we will return to Ireland one day very soon!

 

The Irish Adventure Continues; Cobh

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our short, but eventful trip to Liverpool over, we headed back to Ireland for an overnight stay in County Cork. Cobh is the port nearest Cork City. Having now spent many days exploring parts of the Emerald Isle, in 2014 and on this trip, I have yet to find anyplace in this part of the world that isn’t simply remarkable. And as beautiful as we found Northern Ireland, Cobh may well have been its nearest rival.

I have yet to find anyplace in The Emerald Isle that isn’t simply remarkably photogenic

This was the second of three overnight stops on this cruise – an unusual event for us. Generally one overnight seems to be the norm, and it is often at the beginning or end of the cruise. So this was a bonus, allowing us to do some additional things. Our first day, we mostly walked around Cobh, taking in some local pubs, the Titanic Exhibit, the scenery, and a local restaurant for dinner.

Cork/Cobh Pilot Boat
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Cobh is at once, touristy and quaint and – much like Galway was in 2014 – very photogenic. It began with our sunrise entrance into the harbor, where from the ship deck, we got spectacular views of the bucolic Irish countryside. To our east, as we entered the harbor, I was treated to farms and a wonderful lighthouse at the head, in the early morning fog.

Light House
Cobh Port, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I have often commented here that traveling by cruise ship has its pros and cons. One of the pros, is the vantage point we often get from the ship deck, both entering and departing harbors, and often while docked, as can be seen from the unique vantage point in the opening image. Cobh is a great example, and we were able to view it as the early morning sun did its thing.

Lighthouse
Cobh Port, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

But once you go ashore, you see that there is a lot see and to photograph.

Tanker Dock
Cobh Port, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The little town of Cobh is barely two main streets, built into the side of the hills along the seaport. Catering to tourists and visitors, there is a train to Cork (the major city in County Cork, where Cobh lies), and restaurants along the quay.

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The downtown center has a few lively pubs, and the buildings lining the street are quaint, but colorful. Like any place relying on tourism, there are a number of closed up buildings, but all is well-kept.

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Like I almost always do, I did some pre-trip research and had at least one specific image I wanted to make. I know that an image like the row houses, which is basically the first image you will see if you “GOOGLE” “Cobh, Ireland,” is the hackneyed iconic image. I have many times been (correctly) urged to “make my own image.” Well, I kind of did :-). I looked at the row houses from many different viewpoints as I hiked up and down the steep hills.

“Deck of Cards”
Row Houses
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

“Deck of Cards” Row Houses
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I finally nearly gave up, but stopped a very friendly lady on the street, walking with her grandson and asked her about the spot the image is made. The people of Ireland are absolutely the most friendly people on earth, by the way. She told me it was right on the street in front of the houses. Well I thought I had tried that, but she told me I had not gone far enough and that there was a little (unmarked) park in the middle of the street. I went back, saw the entrance, walked in, and turn around. And, like so many of these iconic images, there it was! Local – or experienced knowledge counts. She also told me that the row houses are referred to as “The Deck of Cards.”

“Deck of Cards”
Row Houses
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

“Deck of Cards”
Row Houses
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Along the way, I found some other nice views of the area, including The Bishop’s Residence.

Bishop’s Residence
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Even though Cobh appears to be a busy little seaport town, and our cruise ship had just unloaded some 2,000 plus additional inhabitants, it was surprisingly quiet, once you ventured off the main square.

Cobh Waterfront
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As is often the case, the showcase architecture of the town was the Roman Catholic Church up the hill; St. Colman’s Cathedral (a/k/a Cobh Cathedral). It can be photographed from several viewpoints. As most here know, I generally carry the diminutive little (redundant much? πŸ™‚ ) Sony x100iv as my travel camera.

St. Colman’s Cathedral
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

One of its shortcomings is that there is a limit at both ends (24 – 70 equivalent). Another is that it is really not made for architectural imagery, and I often find myself liberally applying perspective corrections in Photoshop. So though these may not be the “seen” images, they are still illustrative of some pretty impressive Gothic architecture.

St. Colman’s Cathedral
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

St. Colman’s Cathedral
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Benches outside of
St. Colman’s Cathedral
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Back in town, we had tickets to the Titanic Exhibit. Registered in Liverpool, built in Belfast, the reputed final stop of the RMS Titanic was Cobh. The exibit was short and interesting.

Titanic Exhibit
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The museum has a picture of the rear of the Titanic in the drydock we saw in Belfast. The 3 screws are massive.

RMS Titanic
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There were 3 classes of passenger on all the White Star Line ships: First Class, Second Class and Third Class. Inside the museum, there were replicas of staterooms and the general room, occupied by third class passengers. The capacity for third class was about 1000 people, so you can see the rooms must have been pretty crowded.

Third Class Accommodations
Titanic
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

“General Room”
Titanic
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

First Class Accomodations
Titanic
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We used the Rob Roy Pub as our guide point and meeting place when we split our group a couple times. They were obviously ready to welcome us.

Rob Roy Pub
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Celebrity Reflection Welcome Sign;
Rob Roy Pub
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Walking back to the ship, we were able to continue to see nice views of this great little town. Our cruise ship in the background gives some perspective of the approach.

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Liverpool; Not JUST the Birthplace of “The Beatles”

Liverpool Port
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Interestingly, our cruise was labeled a “British Isles” Cruise. Yet it was a 12 day cruise in which we really technically only spent 3 days in the UK. We also spent another 4 days in The Republic of Ireland. While it might be appropriate to call the Island of Ireland “The British Isles,” I think the majority of them would disagree.

The Vooo Lounge
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Be that as it may, with our pre-cruise days in and around Dublin, we certainly spent over half of our time in Europe in Ireland and Britain. The day following our Northern Ireland adventure, we sailed across the Irish Sea, to Liverpool, England. Perception often varies from reality, and my (admittedly ignorant) opinion of Liverpool was no exception. For my Michigander friends, I was thinking Flint (sorry to you Flintstones πŸ™‚ ); to a perhaps broader audience, Newark (no, not Ohio πŸ™‚ ). But I was wrong (as perhaps a visit to either Newark or Flint with one “in the know” might also prove).

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The primary focus of our day at shore was, not surprisingly, a several hour-long “Beatles” tour. But we were to also learn that Liverpool was an important seaport (particularly historically), and a rather thriving city, with some very impressive architecture, and an active pub and distillery culture.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Granted “borough” status by King John in 1207, it did not obtain its British City Charter 1880. Liverpool replaced nearby Chester, which was on the River Dee and further inland, as the major port for world trade with Britain, around 1207 ant thereafter was Britain’s primary northern port. During the Industrial Revolution, it served as a port and became a first-world manufacturing city. Liverpool also served as the point of departure for British and Irish Emmigrants – mostly to the U.S. In earlier times, Liverpool Port played a significant role in the Atlantic Slave Trade. While probably not among its prouder historical accomplishments, the result was a very diverse city, including not only influence from Ireland and Wales, but the largest black population, and oldest Chinese population in Europe. Trade with the West Indies eventually exceeded trade with Ireland and other parts of Europe, and in 171, the first commercial “wet” dock was built in Liverpool.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The ensuing growth and the industrial revolution soon made Liverpool one of the wealthiest communities in Europe, its wealth surpassing that of London a number of times during the early 19th century.Β  In the 180s the city was often referred to as “the New York of Europe,” and was a sought-after destination well into the early 20th century, attracting immigrants from across Europe. During the Second World War, Liverpool became a critical strategic point. The city was heavily bombed by the Germans, suffering a blitz second only to London’s. The “Battle of the Atlantic,” which proved to be a turning point in the war, was planned, fought and won from Liverpool. Most of the U.S. Troops brought into the European theatre were brought through Liverpool Port.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Sadly, in the 1970s, largely due to significant changes in the shipping of cargo world-wide, Liverpool began a decline, and for a period had one of the largest unemployment rates in the world. Resilient, however, in the late 20th century, the Liverpool economy began to improve and has been on the upward curve ever since. As you drive through the city, it impresses you as a very middle to upper middle class city in places. With a population nearing 1/2 million, it is hard to believe that its population was only around 500 in the 1700s.

Ma Edgerton’s Pub
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our visit was focused heavily on The Beatles history. That deserves its own blog, which will come next time. After our tour, we spent some time in the very cool main Railroad Station, a couple of downtown pubs, including the Liverpool Gin Distillery, and The Alchemist (a unique UK chain originating in London, where food and mixology meet), before boarding our ship again in to return to the Island of Ireland.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Northern Ireland; Belfast, Bushmills and the Northern Ireland Seacoast

Coast of Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

During our “Brian Boru pilgrimage” in 2014, we only made our way up to Northern Ireland briefly, to see the church where the high king was buried following his death at Clontarf. So, we looked forward to seeing this reputedly beautiful part of the island. It did not disappoint. And, though I already put in a good review for him on Tripadvisor, I want to put in a plug for our guide and driver, Mark and the Black Taxi Tours. In the space of a fairly long day, Mark got us to some of the highlights of Northern Ireland, with a fairly in-depth history lesson about the conflict over the past years. I highly recommend this tour, company and Mark!

Game of Thrones Studio
Belfast Port; Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Belfast became a substantial settlement in the 17th century after being established as a town by British administrator, Sir Arthur Chichester. It was initially settled by Protestant English and Scottish migrants. By the early 19th century, Belfast was a major port, paying a major part in the “Industrial Revolution.” Granted city “status” in 1888, Belfast was at one time, the biggest linen-producer in the world, as well as a major ship yard and rope-making center. The Harland and Wolff shipyard, which built the RMS Titanic, was the world’s biggest shipyard. This all made Belfast Ireland’s biggest city for a brief time. Belfast was heavily bombarded during WWII. This growth and prosperity was not, however, without strife. Throughout Ireland’s history, there has been significant discord, much of it over the issues of home rule, and independence. In 1886 Belfast was rocked by rioting over the issue of home rule, which had divided much of Ireland and particularly, Belfast. The problems would continue through to present day.

Game of Thrones Set
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

While Belfast’s run as a global industrial power ended after WWI, in 1945, it remains a major port today, with commercial and industrial docks, including the Harland and Wolff shipyard, dominating the Belfast shoreline. In 1920–22, Belfast became the capital of the new entity of Northern Ireland as the island of Ireland was partitioned, as a result of the Irish War of Independence in which the Republic of Ireland gained its freedom from Britain. Northern Ireland remained a constituent country of the United Kingdom, along with Great Britain, Scottland and Wales.

Game of Thrones Set
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The next 30 years were filled with – often violent – conflict (perhaps euphemistically referred to in Ireland as “The Troubles.” Any attempt here to explain this conflict would be feeble. I commend you to do some research and reading on your own if you are not already familiar with this period of Northern Ireland’s history. We heard a fair amount about it, and it really puts some of what we saw and heard into context.

Dry Dock
RMS Titanic
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We started our tour with a brief drive through the Harland and Wolff Shipyard, and in particular, a visit to the dry dock where the RMS Titanic was build and originally floated. That part of the port has also become currently famous as the set for some of the scenes in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

Dry Dock Pump Station
RMS Titanic
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Because Belfast was one of our shortest stops, and because of the nature or our tour, which focused on the Northern Coastline, we spent very little time in Belfast City. This was unfortunate, and I hope to return there one day and get a better feel for the city. Mark showed us a small area which he compared with Dublin’s Temple Bar area. It was early in the morning and nothing was moving, but it looks like a place to visit during the evening hours.

Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

During “The Troubles,” at some point, the British were called upon to intervene and British Troops were brought in. Each of the two factions lived in separate parts of the city. Among other things, walls were constructed to separate them and a curfew was imposed. There are doors and gates in the walls which were locked at night. They are still closed at night to this very day. Although the violence has pretty much subsided, it is still discomfiting to drive along those walls.

Signing the Wall
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our first stop out of town was an area of very old and majestic Beech Trees lining a short road between two farm fields. Known as “The Dark Hedges,” it is said to be the most photographed scene in Northern Ireland. I added to the tally πŸ™‚ . This scene is apparently attractive enough that the Game of Throne producers filmed a scene (The Kings Road; Season 2, Episode 1) there, perhaps adding to its already popular cache’.

The Dark Hedges
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Dark Hedges
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We then headed up to another famous and popular scene at the northern tip of the island of Ireland; “The Giant’s Causeway.”

Mill/shop on the Bush River
Bushmills, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Dark Hedges were en route to our next destination, Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway. I may need to clarify a bit here. “Bushmills,” contrary to some peoples’ first thought, is not Irish Whiskey (well, not entirely anyway πŸ™‚ ). Situated on the Bush River, Bushmills is one of the prettiest little country villages I have ever seen. We stopped near the bridge into town, over the Bush River, to shoot this pretty little mill (today, I believe it is a gift shop/restaurant). Of course, we would be back later in the day, to visit the Bushmills Distillery.

The Giant’s Causeway
Northern Ireland Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

My image of the Giant’s Causeway is not the typical shot seen on a Google Search. There were hundreds of people climbing around on the rocks, and I just didn’t get anything I liked up close. This shot is more distant, as you begin the walk down to the causeway. This has become a major tourist attraction and park, complete with museum, gift shop, and pay-trolleys. For all the hype, Mark promised us more spectacular views than the causeway, and I agree with him 100%. I think you will, too.

We had an “appointment” with the good folks at the Bushmills Distillery, so we headed back there to do a little tasting. I am pretty sure I had never had even a sip of Bushmills prior to this day.

Bushmills Distillery
Bushmills, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The history and science of making “whiskey” (“whisky” in Scotland), is fascinating. Enough so, that I will devote a post specifically to our tasting experiences (coming soon). For now, suffice it to say that although I found the “standard” Irish whiskey a bit difficult to drink, all of the distilleries have begun to make more “craft” style whiskey – generally meaning it is aged in prior-used barrels (bourbon, sherry, cognac, etc.,) and that imbues the drink with more (subjectively “better”) flavors and generally a sweetness and more full body, which I enjoyed.

Northern Ireland Coastline
seen from Dunluce Castle
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

On the way to our tasting, we followed the northeastern coast along the Atlantic and the Irish Sea, back to Belfast. In 2014, we visited the famed “Cliffs of Mohr” and I made many photos of that dramatic seacoast. I don’t think I believed Ireland could have anything more impressive to offer. I may have been wrong. The opening image here, just south of Royal Portrush golf course – where “The” (British) Open is being played as I write, is a scenic view that is a dramatic and beautiful as I have seen anywhere in the world. Slightly further south, Dunluce Castle stands as a medieval monument to early settlement of the region. It can be seen from the golf course and has been shown numerous times during the telecast. It is mostly ruins, but is one of the most dramatic castles we have seen – largely because of its setting.

Dunluce Castle
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Dunluce Castle
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Dunluce Castle
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Meandering further down the coastline, we stopped at a vantage point where we could see and photograph the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, now owned by the Irish National Trust. Our guide indicated that not only was there a fee to cross it, but generally a fairly long wait. We were content to photograph it from afar.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

All in, this was perhaps one of the best excursion days we have had in all the years of cruising, with a nice mix of sightseeing, whiskey tasting, and some Northern Ireland history. I hope to be back there one day soon.