About hennacornoelidays

Our family loves to travel, camp, and basically go trapsing across this land. We also love to share our stories as well as our favorite picks for adventures. In 2015 Hennacornoelidays Press published the first of what will hopefully be many travel guides. Check it out!

Looking Back While Moving Forward

The first trip we blogged about began with a wedding. Henna was the flower girl. Smart phones weren’t really a thing yet and everything was written up on a netbook. More than once we asked someone if they had WiFi then had to explain to them what WiFi was. Not only had Henna not yet graduated high school, she had not even started Kindergarten.

A few of our favorite photos

In a few weeks Henna will be starting a new adventure in St. Paul, Minneapolis. Cannot begin to say how proud Corey and I are of Henna. We are also very happy with her choice of Macalester College (lots of famous alumni to boast about but none cooler than the samurai of the Walking Dead, Danai Gurira). We are not as excited though about our return drive home from the Twin Cities. Plan on packing a lot of Kleenex.

This past summer Euro fling won’t be our last road trip together. And I certainly plan on continuing to write about our journeys. It might though be under a different handle. Either way, it has been our incredible pleasure letting others into our travel world. To all our friends out there, both virtual and in the flesh, safe travels.

A Few Postcards from Dublin

Forty Foot- a swimming hole just south of Dublin in Sandycove
Corey’s whiskey flight at The Manhattan pub in Raheny

We spent the final few days of our trip in Dublin. Beautiful city filled with beautiful people. Many a time someone approached us thinking we were lost. And once on the DART an older gentleman gestured for us to join him for a bit of a conversation. And no matter how thick our brogue, no one made fun of our accent. Cannot think of a better place to end our trip. We ain’t home yet. Still got one more travel day to go. But the next train ride will likely be on the Blue line.

What can we say, Dublin is a friendly city. So much so you can be fined up to $100 for not returning a smile.
Ferry from Holyhead, Wales to Dublin was smooth sailing and relatively inexpensive.
Traced quite a bit of Bloom’s journey in Ulysses. Above is the tower James Joyce opened his novel with. Later Bloom has lunch at Davy Byrnes.
Relaxing at the Upstairs Books Cafe
The very impressive and also free National Gallery of Ireland
Just a few stops south of Dublin in Sandycove. Within thirty minutes of Dublin and easily reached by train are several very nice fishing villages.
So many pubs, so little time. This is the Gin Palace where we had our last dinner in Dublin.

Postcards from Wales

Hiking in the Gwydir Forest (Betws-Y-Coed, Wales)

Our last few days in the U.K. featured quite a bit of “old fashioned weather” meaning there was lots of rain, gloom and a subtle chill that slowly worked it’s way to the bone. I got “old fashioned weather” by the way from this great booklet given to us in Blaenea Ffestinog  (“Culture Amidst Industry”). Other great Welsh sayings from that book include “face like a month of fives” (a long face) and “my name is scratched with a rusty nail.”

More pictures from Betws-Y-Coed

At Betws-Y-Coed (a beautiful little town a few stops north of where we stayed) tourists picnicked and swam in rivers seemingly oblivious to the near constant rain. They also enjoyed spending time with their dogs. There were in fact so many well mannered and regal looking dogs out and about that Corey wondered if maybe there was a dog show in town. There wasn’t. Turns out that the British just really love their dogs.

Train ride to Holyhead where we then caught a ferry to Dublin

Today was our last day in the U.K. Good timing on our part as there are several big transit strikes scheduled toward the end of this week. We will greatly miss our time on this island. The locals (from London to Edinburgh to the Highlands to Liverpool and then eventually Wales) have all been top notch. Have had a cracker of a time and would say even more lovely things but am running out of British sayings. Cheerio!

Walking to the train early morning Blaenea Ffestinog

Blaenau Ffestinog

Abandoned quarry in Blaenea Ffestinog

Spelled like your dad cheating at Scrabble (stole that one from Henna), Blaenau Ffestinog is a former mining town just south of Snowdonia National Park. Takes three trains to get from Liverpool to Blaenau. The last one was the best; again it was just two cars on a single track with the last ten minutes a tight and completely pitch back squeeze through a mountain.

Another train platform lunch for Corey and Henna

The trip from Liverpool to Blaenau Ffestinog was uncrowded and on-time. Somewhere along the way we crossed into Wales. And by the time we reached our new home most overheard conversations where in Welsh.

A Welsh/English Rosetta Stone?

Blaenau Ffestinog is the end of the line for the south spur that interrupts Holyhead to Chester. For us to go just a tad bit further south took a bus trip. Conversations onboard remained in Welsh but were easily understood. Like the elderly woman who gave several warm goodbyes before exiting the bus. The last was to the bus driver and lasted almost a minute. Then she was on the side of the road with a final wave and a smile for the departing bus. Shortly afterwards the bus driver pulled over to use a restroom. The bus idled without him for at least five minutes.

Hanging out at the Portmeirion Resort

Besides riding the bus we also visited the Portmeirion Resort. One of are all time favorite shows, The Prisoner, was partially filmed there and it was fun walking the grounds. There we mingled a bit, possibly the only Americans on their grounds. It all felt so good, so natural. I miss home but am already mapping out our return.

Henna Patrick McGoohan who both created and started in The Prisoner

Our Long Journey to Liverpool

View from our window in Sterling

The summer Scottish sky is never completely dark. Sometime before five the sun escapes and your room is then bathed in light. It is at that moment when I wake but try my best to fall back asleep. Key to doing so is not looking at my phone.

This morning temptation won and I learned that much of National Rail was off grid. Should we stay or should we go? Stay and we avoid a rough travel day (but lose the mega Marriott points needed to book our Liverpool hotel). Also no guarantee the next day will be any easier. So we decided to go.

In-between trains at Wigan North Train Station

Four trains and over six hours later we made our way from Stirling to Liverpool. A big shout out to the hardworking National Rail workers who made our trip possible. Besides fixing wires, filling in for sick co-workers and otherwise keeping the system rolling, they also patiently answered a whole bunch of questions from nervous American tourists from Chicago. They are simply awesome.

Liverpool right now is in the low sixties. Yesterday it was in the mid to high nineties. For the friendly clerk who checked us in, someone who knows heat from the year she once spent in Texas, it meant not be able to cool down her eighteen month old child. She said that she had a fan but all it did was blow the hot air around. No one she knows has air conditioning and she was scared for the health of her child.

Liverpool street art

There is so much to do in Liverpool. We won’t do any of it. And that is what it is to be in the twilight of an epic trip. Tomorrow we ride the rails again to enter a new country in a familiar kingdom.

Liver Pool Lime Street Station in black and white
View from our window in Liverpool

Talking With Strangers

Airbnbing across Europe has put a bit of a damper on meeting people. Seven years ago we mostly camped and in doing so met a lot of wonderful people. But we have still had a few interesting conversations.

Near the Stirling Castle

On the train from Inverness to Stirling I talked to a thirty something year old from Glasgow. An immigrant from Poland, he has never been to London partly due to his belief that they are not as welcoming to people like himself as they are in Scotland.

I was surprised by that sentiment as we found London to be incredibly diverse and without a noticeable edge. For example, while taking the Tube we saw many field trips. These field trips almost always involved a diverse collection of kids (a typical group involved twenty or more kids in matching jacket and ties marshaled about by a few very clearly stressed out adults). It is of course possible we misjudged the climate, but it also seems that piling on London is a bit of a past time up north.

Wallace Monument in the distance (Sterling)

Our time in the UK overlapped with a historic heat wave. For northern Scotland this meant highs in the mid 70s with lots of sun before cooling off at night; a welcome relief to their usual overcast and cool Summer days. That at least was the sentiment of one Inverness small business owner. When asked about places like London where residents faced over one hundred degree temperatures without air conditioning he replied, “That is what they get for living in London.”

Stirling, Scotland

The next day here was a bit more uncomfortable. Upper eighties with some humidity. Stirling was quiet and the uphill walks to the castle were daunting. Meanwhile London endured a second day of plus one hundred degree weather. It must have been incredibly miserable there. Among other calamities suffered by this heat wave was damage to the rail line which may or may not severely impact today’s scheduled run to Liverpool. Will keep you posted.

Inverness, Scotland

After nearly a month on the road (or, more accurately, rail road track) we have gotten the hang of doing laundry. I also got a haircut.

Inverness is a small city/big town surrounded by amazing Highlander scenery and sites. Inverness also is where Macbeth once ruled. It is, however, best known for its historic battle against the Loch Ness Monster. A little over thirty years ago some 3,000 brave Invernessians lost their lives in combat against that monster from hell. While Nessie has not been heard from since, many fear his return is a question of when, not if. They play the bagpipes here with one ear to the Loch.

Read this sign closely for the punchline.
In 1979 a determined man converted an old gothic church into a used book store. Leakey’s remains family owned and is an Inverness institution.
Inverness at sunset

Request Stops

Walking about Dunvagen, Isle of Skye

One of the quirks of ScotRail are the request stops. They operate kind of like secret menu options at In-N-Out. Care to get off at Achanalt? Then you better speak up a stop or two ahead of time otherwise you will be getting off at Lochluichart instead. And trust me, no one wants to be in Lochluichart.

A Scottish frog

Just kidding Lochluichart. I’m sure it is lovely there. The next few days though for us are a series of request stops. We were going to head south via a ferry and a different train line to a town called Hellensburgh. But then Tiger Woods, but, a couple hundred years of unchecked industrialization, ongoing labor strife and Covid conspired against those plans. So now we are making our way towards Glasgow via Inverness which means a return trip on the same line that brought us to the Isle of Skye.

The Fairy Pools at Isle of Skye

The same train we took on Thursday again chug-chugs it’s way across a single track. This time though the car is nearly empty. Corey sleeps, Henna listens to the Mountain Goats and I stare out the window relieved not to be driving. There are worse things to do again.

Isle of Skye

Kyle of Lochalsh, our jumping off point to the Isle of Skye, is pronounced with a hard khhh sound that would fit right in with the blessing of the candles for Hannukah. Hagis is basically kishke (and like kishke is now usually wrapped in wax instead of intestine). So swap out the bagpipes with a klezmer band and you got yourself a destination Bar Mitzvah.

A few of the locals hanging around the Isle of Skye

The train to Kyle of Lochalsh offers stunning views. Just two train cars, it runs mostly on a very narrow single track with tree branches frequently scratching across the windows. At certain set junctures either the east or west bound train will pull off the track to allow the other to pass. These passings are negotiated in real time by each train’s respective conductor and driver.

Walking to the Coral Beach (Isle of Skye near Dunvegan)

A similar feat is performed when driving the Isle of Skye. Pretty much anything off the main route is a single track road. You immediately brake whenever you see another car coming at you from the opposite direction. At least that is what I did with appreciative locals then beeping their horns in approval. Or yelling at you in Gaelic in what I assumed could only be words of encouragement.

A lonely sheep stands sentry near Dunvegan Castle

You also drive here on the left side of the road. That’s true even if your an American. And everywhere you drive includes a family of sheep hanging out by the side of the road. Sometimes you see a sheep taking a nap with one hoof dangling ever so slightly onto the road. Or they walk along side of you at a pace only slightly slower than the crawl of your car.

Walking toward the Neist Lighthouse

Mostly on the Isle of Skye though you look out to the grass, the mountains and the sky and wish everyone could experience a few days in the Highlands. Then a local yells at you and you resume your drive along the winding, beautiful and way too thin road.

View from our cabin in Dunvegan

Kingussie, Scotland

Wind so strong Corey could not keep her eyes open. At Craigellachie National Nature Reserve in Aviemore.

It is easier to find your way around than to pronounce Kingussie. Can-you-see; the g is silent. Kingussie is one main street, a small grocery store, a good fish and chips joint and two coffee shops. Remarkably there are also multiple book stores but they all keep odd hours. The locals are incredibly nice. They are also well connected by rail (more than six trains a day) to Glasgow, Inverness and a dozen other small towns. Surrounding Kingussie is Cairngorms National Park which looks in every direction like Scotland is intended to look. With no car, we had to be content exploring areas adjacent to the Aviemore and Kingussie train stations. These are a few of the things we saw.

Ferns, wildflowers and sky were a part of every hike we took.
This 18th century baracks was built to put down rebellion in the Highlands.
In 2014 nearly 45% of Scotland voted to separate from Britain. There is a current push for a new referendum on the issue. This sticker was found on Maine Street. It appeared other similar stickers were previously scratched off.
The Kingussie Primary School was built in 1887. Wikipedia states that the school currently serves approximately one hundred students.
We have seen many birds, one very entertaining shrew and this charismatic slug.