Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

T-Minus 5 Days: Preparations Begin In Ernest

So, here we are, less than one week away. This time next week, Trish and I will be walking on foreign soil, conversing with people we've never met, and hoping we can drive down the road without being killed :)

It feels a little more "real" now... Lady Wasteland shooting is over, most of the fires have been put out on the day-job front, and I can really start to focus on the upcoming trip.

Tuesday Trish and I went to our local Triple-A office and got our International Driver's Permit (a surprisingly easy process... as long as you have a US driver's license, you just fill out a form and get your photo taken. No driving test, nothing). Our luggage is a bit worn, too, so we popped by Macy's and looked at some new luggage (holy crap that stuff is expensive!), and we went to get our hair cut at our favorite salon (hot climates will be much more comfortable with shorter hair).

Then we came home... and started to realize the enormity of what's coming. We need to pack, we need to be sure of the baggage weight restrictions on the airlines we're going to be flying (spent a lot of time looking at that today), we need to be sure a hundred little details are taken care of (like these little details)... and the excitement is starting to build.

Today we went out and actually bought new luggage (lets hear it for Macy's Labor Day sale! We actually saved hundreds of dollars on our new Pathfinder bags!) swim suits, and new walking shoes. All the pieces are in place... we just need to get our bags packed and get ready to take off on Tuesday!

So, with that, I thought I'd let the cat out of the bag a bit and let you know just where we're headed.

Tuesday September 4th, we head to Ireland. We're going to be taking off from Portland on American Airlines around 8:00 am, but due to a lay-over in Chicago (where we switch to Aer Lingus) and and the time difference, we're going to be arriving in Dublin at around 5:30am the following day (don't you just love that international date line?).

We've got a car reserved that we'll pick up at the airport... and then it's off to the Hillview House, a bed and breakfast in Lusk, which is right outside of Dublin.

After that, it's off to Dublin where we plan on visiting Trinity College, the Waterford Crystal factory, Dublin Castle, and of course... the Guinness Brewery!! One of the best things about being in Dublin, though, is going to be soaking up the music and poetry of the Dubliners walking down the street or conversing in the neighborhood pubs, seeing the art and statuary on the streets, and just being there.

Much Guinness will be consumed, as will Harp Lager, Irish whiskey, Irish stew, and corned beef and cabbage.

We're going to be in Ireland for five days, but we've only got reservations at the Hillview House for two nights. Our Travel Agent did a great job of building flexibility into our trip; she signed us up for an Avanti Destinations package that allows us to stay at any bed & breakfast in Ireland (that's in their network) with a simple call ahead on the day we're planning to visit. So, we're not locked into staying in Dublin all five days we'll be in Ireland. We can take our rental car down the left side of the road to Blarney Castle, Cork, Kilkenney, or wherever the wind takes us.

Got a suggestion for what we should see
or do while we're in
Dublin and Ireland?
Monday, September 10th we head back to the Dublin airport and board a Ryan Air flight for a brief trip across the water. we'll touch down in Frankfurt Germany and pick up a car, then it's onto the autobahn for four nights at the Backmulde Gashaus in Heidelberg.

Trish and I have both lived in Germany, so we're a little more familiar with that area than we'll be in any of the other countries we're visiting. In a way, visiting Germany is going to be like visiting a mutual friend. We both have fond memories of our time in that country, and of the German people. We'll see how much "survival German" we remember when we have to ask for directions :)

There are lots of things we're looking forward to in Germany, not the least of which is enjoying the food; good beer, curry wurst, schnitzel, sauerbratten, goulash, and, if I'm lucky, some erpsensuppe (German pea soup - more an autumn and winter dish than a summer dish, but I might be able to dig some up).

Heidelberg is a wonderful historic city, with one of the oldest universities in western Europe. We'll spend some time in the Heidelberg Cathedral and castle, and wandering across the bridge over the Neckar river. We're also hoping to take a day trip out to Neuschwanstein, King Ludwig II's fairytale castle (which looks oddly familiar to a lot of Americans).

Got a suggestion for what we should see
or do while we're in
Heidelberg and Germany?
Let us know!

On Friday, September 14 we'll take our rental car back to Frankfurt and board an Olympic Airlines flight for Athens. A lot of people have been asking us about the recent wildfires in Greece; we're hoping that they'll have them fully under control when we fly into that ancient city.

We'll take a taxi to our hotel in Athens and spend the day checking out a few sights - the Parthenon, the Theater of Dionysus (a must-see for us!), and the Agora... a day isn't much to see everything we want to see, but we have to catch a ferry in the morning to Paros, an island in the Cyclades. There we'll be spending six days in Anezina villiage.

Our time on Paros is going to be some of the most relaxing time we spend on the trip... Paros is a small island, not a tourist-oriented area (and it's very far away from the wildfires that recently scorched Greece). We plan on spending those six days laying around, popping down to the beach from time to time, and generally not hustling around from place-to-place.

Friday September 21st we'll take the ferry back to Athens and spend another evening there, wandering among the historical ruins and getting to know some of the hills the city is built on. We'll spend another evening in our hotel, and then it's back to the Athens airport...

Got a suggestion for what we should
see or do while we're in
Athens and The Cyclades?

Thursday, September 22nd we'll be back in the air on Olympic Airlines, headed to Italy. We'll land in Milan, and then pick up another rental car... then we'll drive down into Tuscany and park the car at the Residenza Mongolfiera in Florence.

We're really looking forward to spending time in Florence... as the birthplace of the Italian renaissance, it's got some of the greatest artistic treasures in Europe (at least from that period). Thankfully, the B&B we're staying at will rent bicycles to us so we don't have to drive into the city center to see Michaelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci's homes and workshops, The Academia, The Uffizi Pallace, and the Duomo.

We're also hoping to get a chance to drive out into the Tuscan countryside and see some of the landscapes that inspired that art. Tuscany is known for its vineyards and olive groves, it's sun-drenched fields and its rolling green hills. We're especially hoping that we can visit some small Tuscan villages get a peek into their day-to-day lives.

Of course, we're planning on eating well... our friend Lana Veenker mentioned a couple of places in Florence that she discovered when she went there last year, and she mentioned that the best places to eat (the places the locals go to) are on the south bank of the Arno river, away from the tourist areas around the Duomo and train station.

Got a suggestion for what we should
see or do while we're in
Florence and Italy?
Let us know!
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end... and frankly, our wallets are going to be happy that this trip isn't going to go on in perpetuity.
On Wednesday, September 26th we'll take our car back to the airport in Milan and board another Ryan Air flight back to Dublin. We'll stay the evening in the Clarion Hotel (located inside the Dublin airport), and then board an early morning Aer Lingus flight back to Chicago. There'll be another lay-over, then it's back home to Portland the evening of the 27th.
Whooooooo... so there you have it. Our whirlwind European vacation-to-be. It's just around the corner... now I've gotta get packed for it :)
We'll be bringing the laptops and digital camera... hopefully we'll get a chance to post some photos while we're there... unless we never get around to it, which is just as likely.
We'll try to keep in touch...