An Unusual Blarney Castle Adventure

A Short Story

Blarney Castle Caution

If you are not up the the challenge of climbing six stories of steep stairs – don’t start the tour…

I think that one of those requirements for first-time visitors to Ireland is visit Blarney Castle. It was way up on our list of must see.

When you tour Blarney Castle the first thing you are confronted with is a six story, narrow spiral staircase. Everything is rough stone and there isn’t enough room on the stairs for more than a single file line. Someone getting past another in line would be a serious challenge. In touring the castle and getting up to the rock of eloquence (better known as the Blarney Stone) you must ascend on one staircase and descend on another equally narrow staircase. While on the ascent there are a couple of side rooms attached to the stairwell there is no way out until you climb the full six stories. At the top you walk over to the Blarney Stone and afterwords cross over to the other corner and start down the second staircase.

Before you enter the actual castle itself there is an attendant that clearly explains the issues with the spiral staircase and that if you don’t think you are up to the climb you shouldn’t continue.

On our visit last year as we entered the grounds we became aware of a couple in the group that stood out. He was, it turned out, in his 90’s and walked with a Hurrycane. It’s that foldable walking cane with the hand grip at the top and the four footed base as seen on TV. As we entered the castle the elderly gentleman was ahead of us with about six people between us and him in line. Just ten feet inside we were at the foot of that spiral staircase. At that point we commented to ourselves that we were impressed with his courage if not his judgement.

To his credit he made it up almost three stories before he couldn’t take another step. At that point the people below on the stairs couldn’t do anything to help because we were stuck in a single file. There was a lot of discussion up and down the line and eventually the line above him managed to get into an alcove and one gentlemen came back to him. With his wife behind him and help from the man above they managed to help him crawl up a number of steps to that alcove. After that the line started moving up again – there was no other choice. There was no way we were going to get a line three stories up into the castle to back up. When we got to the top of the castle several people explained to the attendants helping people kiss the stone* about the gentleman’s problem.

Maybe Blarney Castle has experienced this problem before but the logistics of stopping the line, getting help to him and than getting him down three flights of steep, narrow, spiral stairs does seem like a daunting task. That doesn’t even take into consideration the tour buses that are on a schedule and have significant distances to travel.

I’m sure there are a number of morals in this adventure but I’ll leave them to the readers imagination.

*You lay on your back while the attendants hold you as you stick your head through an opening at the top of the castle, six stories above the ground while you kiss the stone protruding from the wall above you – try that on a wet and rainy day. Also there doesn’t seem to be any Purell in use and you start speculating about all those people ahead of you that day?

Advertisements

Port of Call Villefranche-sur-Mer

The Beach in the distance
Villefranche Beach

Villefranche-sur-Mer or just Villefranche is a picturesque town on the French Riviera featured on many cruise itineraries. The town itself is between Monte Carlo and Nice with Cannes only a little farther (19 miles) away. The quant waterfront is lined with cafes and restaurants and stretches from the marina, where the tenders tie up, around a natural harbor past a number of beautiful beaches. Its nearness to Monte Carlo and Nice is probably one of its biggest attractions for the cruise lines as it affords them a number of tour opportunities. But even if you book a tour don’t pass up spending some time at a cafe or restaurant on this remarkable waterfront.

Where Your Ship Docks

The waterfront

While Villefranche has one of the best protected harbors on the Riviera it has no major docking facilities and cannot accommodate cruise ships. This is a tender port where you land at the visitors center right in town. The visitor center offers maps, good advice on getting around and has good public facilities.

Transportation

Villefranche is an easy town to walk around in with plenty of shopping opportunities and good restaurants, but the streets do climb steeply up from the waterfront. Less than a half mile around the waterfront is the train station where you can catch frequent trains to Monte Carlo, Nice or Cannes. They run about every twenty minutes and a trip to Monte Carlo takes only fifteen minutes and costs usually under €7.00. So before you sign up for that expensive tour consider some exploring on your own.

A cafe across from the visitors center

Currency

The French currency is the Euro and you should not expect them to accept Dollars or Pounds in Villefranche. Credit cards are widely accepted and there are ATM machines available as well.

Citadelle Saint-Elme and Fort du Mont Alban
Citadelle Saint-Elme with Fort du Mont Alban in the distance

Attractions

The biggest attraction is the Riviera itself. Famous beaches, casinos, yachts at anchor and of course French cuisine. With Cannes and Nice to the west and Monaco only seven miles to the east a train trip is a fast and inexpensive way to see the glamour of the Riviera up close.

There are also a number of reasons to simply stay in Villefranche:

Citadelle Saint-Elme on the waterfront
Citadelle Saint-Elme

Just as you exit the visitor center to the left is Citadelle Saint-Elme a thirteenth century fortification which also now houses art exhibits

Chapelle de Saint-Pierre des Pecheurs – Beautiful chapel right on the harbour with an interior decorated by Jean Cocteau.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – A villa, museum and fantastic gardens located on the opposite side of the harbor. Admission is about €15 but well worth it.

Fort du Mont Alban – If you are into hiking, a walk up Mt Alban toward Nice is worth it as it stands over 600 feet above the harbor and the views are well worth the climp. The fort itself built in the 16th century is not open to the public but is still impressive from the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Essay – The Keukenhof

It’s coming up Spring in Europe and that means it’s Keukenhof  time in Amsterdam.

For additional information about the Keukenhof click  HERE.

Open 21 March to 15 May 2019

The Keukenhof is unarguably the largest flower gardens and show in the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Official site click HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For additional information about visiting the Keukenhof click  HERE.

A New Travel Map

Earth Glow At Night From Space

It started as a one-off for our own use and morphed into gifts for family and friends. Now our travel push pin maps have advanced to the level of a hobby. A local gift shop has added a display and personalized order form and we have just started selling on Etsy.

Our travel maps are printed 13″x19″ on heavy weight matte stock with personalization included.

Always trying to improve the look, I have now married a satellite composite image of the earth at night with my world map design. It is now available on the Etsy page.

 

Take a look HERE.

Impressions of Budapest

If you haven’t given much thought to Budapest, Hungary maybe it’s time you did. This city can hold its own against any number of great European cities like Paris, Rome or London. There have been travel moments in our lives that just stay with us because they were so special. Strolling the banks of the Danube in Budapest after dark is just such a moment…

Enjoy a stroll thru Budapest with us.

Travel Maps For Christmas

Put a Pin In It

We’ve Created Beautiful Pin Maps To Record Your Travels available through our Etsy store. VISIT NOW

A few years ago we printed, mounted and framed a world map and added pins to designate the places we had visited. As we continued to travel, we added more pins. Over time, we have had a number of friends and family members admire our map and ask for maps of their own, which we were glad to give as gifts. With much encouragement over the past couple of months, we have designed our own original maps and hope to make them available for sale.

Our Etsy store is now open. VISIT NOW

After you place your order we customize and print each map and ship in about five working days via the USPS. The map is printed on heavy cover stock and is ready for framing. Detailed instructions are included for installing in ready-made, inexpensive frames or you can have it custom mounted and framed.

The World Map

Proudly display and pin your world travels while keeping track of your adventures and future plans. Our gorgeous personalized maps are a beautiful addition to your home and are a great conversation piece.

World Map #W1 in Grays and Blues

This 13″ x 19″ exclusive original design  map is available in two color schemes and is printed on premium cover stock. Included are a number of custom options (see ordering information).

World Map #W2 in Earth Tones and Blues

Pick Your Map and Select Customizations Below

  • Select a banner .                           
  • Add a custom printed name .     
Put a pin in it and record all your travels

Ships promptly in a mailing tube and comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing with do-it-yourself instructions. Make use of included colored pins to indicate visits to Countries, Cities and National Parks. The design shows over 200 cities along with major national parks, seas and oceans.

Available soon, framed and ready to hang.

Example of map detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

The United States Map

Great to get your children interested in geography and tracking their adventures or remembering family vacation trips. Makes a beautiful personalized gift and is designed with children in mind as a fun, in-home, learning tool.

This 13″ x 19″original design map is printed on heavy premium cover stock and includes a number of customization options.

Select Customizations Below

  • Choose a banner                              
  • Add a custom printed name       
Put a pin in it to display your travels

Comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing along with do-it-yourself instructions. Select pin colors to indicate visits to National Parks, States and Cities.V

This map is designed over a topographic image with all 50 states outlined and their names in bright red. Printed with over 200 U.S. cities along with major National Parks.

 

Also available soon framed and ready to hang.

Visit Our Etsy Store NOW.

Still time for Cristmas – order maps and select customization options only at our Etsy store.

 

 

Rome Cruise Port of Civitavecchia

.

Civitavecchia inner harbor

Rome’s Cruise Port is Civitavecchia which is one of the Mediterranean’s Two Major Cruise Departure Ports. If you are spending time in Rome ahead of a cruise or are flying in, the trip to Civitavecchia requires some planning as it is not a short distanceGeneral

The Cruise Port of Civitavecchia is a seaside city and the port serving the city of Rome. The city is served by frequent train service from Rome along with regular service to other Italian destinations. The Cruise port is only a short five or six block walk from the train station along the waterfront on Via Aurelia. Once at the port there are usually free shuttles to the cruise ships. From where and how the shuttles run seems to change often.

The Cruise Port of Civitavecchia is a seaside city and the port serving the city of Rome. The city is served by frequent train service from Rome along with regular service to other Italian destinations. The Cruise port is only a short five or six block walk from the train station along the waterfront on Via Aurelia. Once at the port there are usually free shuttles to the cruise ships. From where and how the shuttles run seems to change often.

 

The Cruise Port of Civitavecchia is a seaside city and the port serving the city of Rome. The city is served by frequent train service from Rome along with regular service to other Italian destinations. The Cruise port is only a short five or six block walk from the train station along the waterfront on Via Aurelia. Once at the port there are usually free shuttles to the cruise ships. From where and how the shuttles run seems to change often.

The main entrance to the port is nearest the train station and across from the McDonalds but recently the cruise shuttles are being organized nearer the Roman Dock entrance about four blocks farther up Via Dalmazia .

Where the Ships Dock 

 Rome Cruise Port Civitavecchia is both a cruise ship embarkation port as well as a popular port of call and for that reason it can have a large number of ships in port from time to time. On one day we counted seven large cruise ships tied up. Because of the size of the port it normally requires a shuttle to get out of the port or to your ship.

 

 

Transportation 

The best way to get into Rome is to take a train. From Civitavecchia a typical trip to S. Pietro (40 mins), Trastevere (50 mins), Ostiense (55 mins) and finally Termini (70 mins). Fare starts at €5 one way on the commuter trains but can cost up to €25 round trip if using regional trains depending on ticket class. There is a manned ticket booth at the station along with vending machines. We would strongly recommend getting a metro train map ahead of time and plan your route before getting to Italy. Our experience is that buying tickets ahead of time online doesn’t save anything and can actually cost you more.

Taxis are available but are famous for overcharging with the short ride from the port to the train station quoted as high as €10 or €15.

Taking a taxi into Rome or to the airport can be an expensive trip with fares running from €150 to €300.

There are also shuttle services to the airport with an average price starting at €25 per person. It is recommended that reservations be made as schedules can vary a lot.

Visiting Civitavecchia 

We have stayed in Civitavecchia a number of times. It is a nice city with a number of nice hotels and restaurants within walking distance of the port. The main business district is next to the port and there are a number of nice shops in the area as well as a pedestrian mall. 

evening.Via Aurelia runs along the waterfront from the train station to the ports main entrance and has a number of restaurants, most with outdoor seating available. Sitting in an outdoor cafe and feeling the sea breeze is a way of life here. There is also a nice park area along the water which is a popular place for locals to stroll in the evening and often features special events.