Actually, England, Wales, and Ireland.
We had gone to Alaska in 1978, and so there weren’t any trips until we’d saved enough to go to England, as Owen had wanted to do for a long time. We were at a party and mentioned we were going, and Pierce Drohan said he’d always wanted to go. So generous Owen said he could come along–never thinking he would, I think. And Pierce did. As a friend told us, Pierce never got invited more than once. Which was a lesson to us to choose our traveling companions with care. Pierce has been dead a long time now, but we remember him well from this trip.
It turned out after all to be a good one. We started outside of London, went by way of the Cotswolds and Stratford, through the west to Wales, up to Holyhead, where we took the ferry to Ireland.
Our first stop in England was Hampton Court, which was blooming on the beautiful late April day. It was on this trip that we concluded that the best time to go to Europe was May, which was our preferred time until we discovered that September was pretty nice too. We always avoided the summer, as any sensible soul would do. Anyway, from there we headed up toward the Salisbury plain and Stratford.
We were quite lucky on this trip to have really great weather the whole time. Unusual for England, of course, and it held until the very end. The visit to Stonehenge was nice since in those days you could get rather closer to the stones than you can now. I suppose it’s best, given how destructive the public can be, but I’m glad we saw it up close.
From Stonehenge we went to see the famous gardens at Stourhead. We have visited the house on almost every trip to England, and the gardens are always fabulous. On this trip the rhododendrons were in full bloom and we were delighted by the size of them.
Then it was on to Stratford to see Anne Hathaway’s cottage and Shakespeare’s house. Interestingly, we went back a few years later when we took Owen’s mother, since Stratford was one of the few places she definitely wanted to see. From Stratford we worked our way across Cheshire, staying in a pleasant hotel there before getting into Wales and stopping at Caernarvon Castle on the way up to Holyhead.
It took some negotiation, because we could not take the white Volvo we were driving on the ferry across to Dublin, so we had to leave it at the hotel parking lot while we headed over the Irish sea. It was an overnight trip, landing us at Dun Laoghaire (pronounced “leery”). No cars to rent, and of course we had not thought about the issue of having arrived in a Catholic country on Easter.
We got into Dublin at the national library so Owen and Pierce could do some research on their family backgrounds. I can’t remember how we got there. I then got on the pay phone to a car rental agency called South County Self Drive, and they couldn’t have been nicer. Not only did they have a car, they told me how to take the bus to get there. And since we were going back to Dun Laoghaire, they told me just to put the keys in the trunk and leave it there. Super nice, very Irish, as we discovered.
So we tooled about Ireland in our little red Ford (I think). Heading down from Dublin and around to Cork, to Kerry, the Beare Peninsula, and then back across to Dublin. Owen had the good fortune to find a sort of acquaintance at Bantry House (which we toured). Later the house became a B&B and we stayed there, but that was another trip. We kissed the Blarney stone, toured the Ring of Kerry, visited the glass works at Waterford (Owen bought two Sullivan goblets), and felt we’d got a taste of Ireland.
Our last visit was to the castle of Plas Newydd, in Anglesey. Then, on to the ferry and back to Wales.
We went across Wales into England and stopped in the Lake District to stay at the Wild Boar Hotel, which was a real treat. The weather was chilly but pleasant (it was early May), and Owen and I wandered the hillside back of the hotel while Pierce entertained himself in the bar. Unfortunately, Both Owen and Pierce ate wild boar, and both ended up with food poisoning, which made the last day and night miserable. What was worse was that we had no end of troubled getting out of the hotel because it snowed.
At last we made it back to London and the plane, where we scored first class seats. Made the whole thing quite special.