We left Ennis in the wee hours of the morning. The taxi driver said to John, “please sit up front because I need your help.” The help he needed was to have John listen as he talked non-stop for 30 minutes on the way to the airport! Wow. Very friendly and typically Irish but it would have been better with coffee.
We took a very short flight to London and got a ride to our adorable hotel. Ampersand is a new boutique hotel right in the heart of South Kensington, about 2 blocks from the Natural History Museum. It is a perfect location near restaurants, shops, and museums but it is super quiet and features unique furnishings and design. I really recommend it and I would stay there again in a minute.
It was quite early so we dropped our bags and walked to the Natural History Museum. This is where I had my absolute favorite moment of the whole trip. We walked into the dinosaur display, which is huge and fascinating and full of skeletons. A little girl in front of me, she was probably 5 years old in a sweet little dress and coat, suddenly yelled, “Look! It’s Stegosaurus!” And she ran towards the display. Cutest. Thing. Ever. Her parents followed her and took her picture and I wanted to take one too but thought it would be rude.
Next we headed to the National Gallery to look at art. After wandering the halls for about 2 hours, we walked down Whitehall towards Westminster Abbey and then crossed the Thames to see the London Eye. The crowds really got to me, so we hopped on the Tube and headed back to our hotel to freshen up.
Since one of our favorite things to do in the States is try craft beers, next we went to a great new pub that serves locally brewed craft beers. Cask Pub and Kitchen was really fun!
Then we went to dinner with our friend James who is Irish but lives in London. We met him in December 2010 hiking the Inca Trail in Peru. It was so fun to see him again!
We slept for a while and the next morning went for a lovely walk in Kensington Gardens, then we had a croissant and caught the car back to the airport.
It was a short trip, but we managed to tick several London boxes and we can’t wait to go back.
There was a French school next to our hotel so there were lovely Patisseries all over.
St Patrick’s Day Parade–On our third day of the delegation we again started with breakfast at the hotel, then we took a short bus ride to town hall where we lined up to march in the parade. This was so much fun! The crowd loved hearing the marching band, and they smiled and waved as we went by. My only regret was that we couldn’t see the parade ourselves. But marching in it was a real thrill.
St. Joseph’s Doora Barefiled GAA Club for hurling and football–After a short regrouping we took a bus to the GAA Club where we enjoyed a catered lunch of lamb stew and seafood stew. It was so delicious I wanted to had seconds and thirds, but I managed to control myself. The all-volunteer group from the club gave us a presentation on hurling and gaelic football, then they ran some drills on the field.
Official opening ofAnon is Anall Contemporary Audio-Visual Exhibition –The bus brought us back to the hotel and we walked straight over for the opening of a beautiful art exhibit at the glor music center. I had a lively talk with one of the artists who invited me back to stay at her house whenever I like. Councilman Mike Johnson dedicated the Exhibition and we all enjoyed looking at the art and hearing a traditional band play.
Delegation Dinner atCloister –Cloister is a gorgeous restaurant with a stunning private dining room, where about 50 of us gathered for a 4 course dinner with the mayor, the town council, and the delegation from Phoenix. Sorry I did not take any pictures of it but please take my word for it–the room and the food were beautiful.
Cliffs of Moher 5 Miler–We were really looking forward to all of the activities on Saturday, and they did not disappoint. We started with breakfast at the hotel, then a short bus ride through County Clare to the Cliffs of Moher where we ran in the 5 Miler. It was a beautiful, hilly run with gorgeous views of the water and the countryside. Lots of families came out of their homes to watch us go by. John won 4th overall, 1st overseas.
St. Mary’s High School Band Performance at the Cliffs of Moher–The kids from the St. Mary’s band were busy on this trip! They played for us several times, including at the Cliffs before the race.
Vaughan’s Anchor Inn–We were really looking forward to a great seafood meal and this one was truly delicious. We had oysters, mussels, seafood stew, cod, and fish n’ chips.
Tour of the Burren –We got a long coach tour of the Burren all the way up to Galway Bay. Oor tour guide was kind and funny and told many stories. The Burren itself was a huge field of rock left from glacial ice.
Mass at St Peter’s & St Paul’s Cathedral–The cathedral in Ennis is really colorful and beautiful. We did a lot of standing up, sitting down, kneeling, and nodding. What a workout! We enjoyed our evening.
Pub Tour–After mass we went back to change into some warmer clothes and hit as many pubs as we could, and since we’re old, that was only two. Although we were trying to find some great traditional music, the guys playing at the first pub were working their way through some Santana standards. We moved on to a smaller place geared more towards locals where we saw our bus driver from earlier in the day having a few pints with his buds.
We arrived into Shannon airport quite late on March 14th and then headed to the hotel to settle in, so I’m not including that in my report since we were pretty wiped after our flights. Although I will say we really enjoyed chatting with Bob, an Episcopal priest who was kind enough to meet up with our crew even though we were up quite late.
Let’s start with Day 1 of the delegation trip, which would prove to be more jam-packed than we could have expected.
Ennis/Phoenix Business Tourism Forum–We had a wonderful breakfast in the hotel with representatives from the town of Ennis and County Clare. We got to meet local leaders and brainstorm about ways we can advance relationships between Phoenix and Ennis.
Microsemi Corporation–It might sound strange given the types of activities John and I usually enjoy on our travels, but I was really looking forward to this tour of the Ennis plant of the Microsemi Corporation. We got to view all of the high-tech equipment the company uses to test electronic parts that will go on to be used in aerospace and military applications. This was a process I never could have imagined had I not seen it first hand.
Ennis Walking Tour–We were lead by a local Ennis resident to view historical and unique features throughout the town. One tidbit we learned was the etymology of the word “boycott,” which came from the quiet refusal to do business with Captain Charles Boycott due to his status as a landlord in County Clare.
Ennis, A Musical Town–We enjoyed a light lunch while two local experts gave a presentation about musical festivals in the area.
Town Council Mayoral Welcome and Reception at Waterpark House–This was tons of fun! Seemed like the whole town gathered in Waterpark house to hear St. Mary’s band play. Before they performed, we got to hear a group from a local area primary school. We enjoyed the music very much–especially watching the Irish kids’ expressions as they played. Then the Ennis Mayor Peter Considine presented Phoenix Councilman Mike Johnson with a Waterford crystal vase, and Johnson presented Considine with a Navaho friendship bowl.
Phil Coulter concert at glor–After a short rest we walked to the beautiful concert venue, glor Irish Music Center, a stone’s throw from our hotel and enjoyed a delightful concert by the Irish legend Phil Coulter, including his famous “The Town I Loved so Well.”
John and I love to travel, and at the risk of being repetitive, I’ll explain that we have a promise to each other that each year we will go to a country neither one of us has visited. We started this practice in 1998 and have been going strong for 14 years. This year we will have our 15th anniversary New-to-You-Country-Trip with Sweden in August. We’ll be going to Denmark too but I’ve been there so it doesn’t count towards our promise.
2003 Costa Rica
2006 St Lucia
2008 Turks and Caicos
But let me tell you something about our trips. With the exception of Buenos Aires, we tend to plan very active vacations that require lots of gear so we usually show up at the airport looking like college kids/ hippies/ vagabonds. That has made preparations for today’s trip a bit challenging. We are required, for once, to Pack Like Grown-Ups.
Why the requirement? We’re headed to Ennis Ireland as part of the 25th Anniversary Delegation for the Phoenix Sister Cities. John sits on their board, and we will be representing the good ole US of A at such events as:
Ennis Town Council Mayoral Welcome and Reception
Tour of the Microsemi Corporation Semi-Conductor Plant