Ireland or Bust

Well, our Ireland trip is officially official!

Everything but a plane ticket has been booked. Not to be one of ‘those’ people yes, I have a countdown already. 189 days until we land in the Emerald Isle!

Here is a rundown of the trip that awaits us.

September 18-Fly into Dublin and take bus to Belfast. We originally planned on flying to Belfast but the flights to Dublin are almost 500 bucks cheaper.

September 19-Pick up car and drive to the Dark Hedges and then to Giant’s Causeway (number 1 on my list of things to see!). From there we are heading to Strandhill and staying the night.

September 20-Galway and then staying at a beautiful accommodation outside of Galway. A bit out of price range but this is our delayed honeymoon so we decided it was worth it.

September 21-26-Staying at a cottage in the countryside in County Kerry. From there we will have a nice base for a few days, explore the area, eat good food, drink good beer, and I’m sure take wonderful pictures.

Here is the view near our cottage:

Cottage View

September 26-28-Kilkenny. Another base for 2 days to explore the area.

September 28-October 1-Dublin. We found a nice rental apartment that is near the Temple Bar area (but far enough away we won’t be kept up all night!). Number one tourist attraction for me to see in Dublin you ask? Trinity College Library. I am sure I’ll walk in and feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.

I’m sorry I haven’t been able to update in awhile. My computer crashed and for now I am using my wifes until I can get mine fixed.

So, fellow Ireland travelers and local Irish peeps-what do you think about our plan? Can you give us any ‘must-sees’? I want your opinions!

Until next time…slán

 

 

 

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My Travel Style

As a reader of this site you may have noticed that I don’t take a multitude of trips. I sometimes wonder if “TripwithBrit” is an honest name for this blog. I don’t travel year round, traveling isn’t my job (yet). One of these days it might be, especially if I win the Powerball on Wednesday. I can take a lot of trips once I pocket 500 million dollars. I try to take one trip a year if that is feasible. I work full-time and I am lucky to get about 5 weeks of vacation, plus sick time and a lot of holidays. I can also work longer hours and use those extra hours for vacation. There are perks to working for the US government. My wife Angela also works full-time but her job isn’t as hip as mine in terms of vacation time. I’ve taken one trip without her and to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it. I’ve grown used to having her with me all the time.

So, while I may not have as many trips under my belt as other travel blogs, I still felt like maybe I would write about how I prefer to travel. There are so many different travel styles and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about my blog. One thing I will be up front about is that we don’t ‘do’ hostels. Not that we think there is anything wrong with them of course. But we are married, my wife is in her 40’s, I’m in my 30’s and we have certain ideas about when we travel. We like our own space. We like our own bathrooms and showers. I think that comes from just living on our own for so long. We don’t really drink so we prefer not to stay in any sort of place that has the reputation as a ‘party’ place.

There is one thing I prefer to do at least part of the time on my vacations. I like to rent apartments. One thing is that it saves money because you have a kitchen and you can cook for yourself. But do you want to know what I love about rental apartments? A kitchen means its an excuse to go to the grocery store in a foreign land. I love grocery stores! I mean, not so much here in the US, I know what I am getting into. But in another country I just think it’s so fun. I mean, have you seen their chips? They have the coolest flavors! We had steak and potato and turkey dinner chips while in Paris. The turkey dinner? It tasted like Thanksgiving. C’mon America! Lays has a contest every year but I find their flavors so boring. Cheese garlic bread? Please. Give me some steak and potato chips and I’ll buy out the whole aisle. I stayed in a rental in Krakow, Paris, and Amsterdam. When in Switzlerland my brother and sister-in-law rented a beautiful apartment in Lucens. That is what I prefer. I prefer a place that feels like home, a place where I can cook. I don’t have to get up, rush to get ready and find a restaurant to eat my meal at.

Our Paris apartment was a block from the Louvre. We went with the website Vacation in Paris There were a few things we were not happy about with the apartment but for the most part the apartment suited our needs perfectly. And it was in the ideal location. VIP comes pretty highly recommended on a lot of different travel sites I frequent. There was a Franprix just around the corner

 

When in Amsterdam we stayed in a gorgeous little apartment called the Korenbloemen. Unfortunately Hugo, the owner, no longer rents this apartment out. It was the idea location, close to the Dam Square, close to the Red Light District, a quick walk to the Anne Frank House and a bunch of different museums. It was small and a bit dark but we couldn’t have asked for a better apartment. There was a grocery store just a few blocks away.

In Switzerland my mother, brother, sister-in-law and niece stayed in a really great bed and breakfast type establishment. It really was just 2 levels and the first level was occupied by the owners and then we had the 2nd floor. Unfortunately this place is also not in operation anymore but it is probably one of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed in. I was incredibly ill on that trip and all I wanted was a comfortable place to lay my head and this was it. The temperature went down to around 5o°F (in July) and I slept like a rock. And the view? Well, that speaks for itself.

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The view from our house in Lucens, Switzerland ©TripwithBrit

One thing I like to do is stick to a budget when it comes to accommodations. I like some comfort but rarely do we stay in a luxury apartment or hotel. Our Ireland trip will be the exception. It is our delayed honeymoon and a few of the nights we are staying in a high end hotel in Kilkenny, Ireland and we are staying at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel (Glenlo Abbey) outside of Galway for one night. The rest of our trip we are staying in mid-range priced places. But luckily for us most of Ireland is fairly cheap (especially compared to Paris or Bruges).

When I travel I can be occupied for hours roaming around taking photos. I am so glad that Angie is a lot like me. Our first trip together was Paris and Bruges. We had never traveled that far together and I don’t think we knew what to expect of each other. I’m so glad she too likes to take it easy on vacation. We don’t over plan our days. We have an idea of what we want to do on a particular day but we don’t plan it by the hour. I prefer not to come home from vacation exhausted from overdoing it every single day then I need another vacation to recover!

A must for me on vacation though? A shower. Not a hand-held shower hose but I need an actual, legit shower that I can stand up in and have the water cascade down me. I think that is about the only ‘must’ for me when I book any accommodation. You want an amazing shower? Try out the shower at Hotel Pullman Brussels. Pullman

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We may have splurged a bit on this hotel… ©TripwithBrit

Missouri State Penitentiary

Growing up I had an obsession with the macabre. I loved horror movies, true stories about hauntings, books about serial killers, I loved telling scary stories and going to all the places in my hometown (and surrounding areas) that were supposedly haunted. My interest in it started when I was 11 or 12 years old. My family and I moved into an old house, started updating it, and one early summer day I woke up to a little boy standing next to  my bed wearing a suit and a top hat. I could see right through him. I shook my head and he disappeared. I assumed it was a dream and didn’t give him much thought until months later my parents friend saw the same little boy in my brothers bedroom.

My obsession only grew. I lived in Illinois, right over the river from St Louis, Missouri. There were many places in the area that were haunted. There were the Seven Gates of Hell in Collinsville, Illinois. They are old train trestles and tunnels with an unverified history. Some of which is that the KKK used to hang African-Americans there. Teenagers drove their car into the 7th gate and died and now haunt the area. The tall tale on the 7th gate is that at midnight a portal to hell opens up. I’ve been to the Seven Gates. Driving out there at midnight, nobody around, and getting out of the car was enough to nearly cause an anxiety attack but there was nothing strange there. Well, except for the group of teenagers we saw walking down the road near one of the gates.

There is a witches house near my parents old house. They tore it down before I was old enough to drive. There is an old train track where children were killed by the train and now haunt the tracks. If you park your car where the old track was, they will move your car. I don’t recommend driving to that area anymore, there are homeowners there that don’t take kindly to trespassers. They are also armed. The Lemp Mansion is just over the river into St Louis which has its own mystery surrounding the mansion and the family that it deserves its own blog post.

So, having a ‘Haunted October’ planned for 2015 wasn’t anything out of the norm for me.

Back in summer of 2015 my wife, my friend Jenny and her new husband Jon had the bright idea to spend our October exploring some of the ‘haunted’ spots in our area. We quickly decided to book a midnight tour at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri. I was expecting some creepiness and some cool pictures.

We experienced so much more than that.

We road-tripped to Jefferson City from St Charles county. It’s a quick jaunt to Jeff City. We checked into our hotel, grabbed dinner, and went back to our rooms to take naps. Our tour was started at midnight and would last for 3 hours. We roused ourselves up and made it to the prison around 11:30. The great thing about this tour is that it is a labeled a ‘ghost tour’. We had a few guides, they explain the history, but then they kind of let you roam around on your own. You can do EVP sessions. An EVP is electronic voice phenomena which is how a ghost can possibly communicate with us from beyond. You won’t hear it just sitting in a room but the recorder picks it up. My wife Angela and Jon had cameras (and most of the pictures here will be Angela’s). They have ghost hunting equipment that you can rent (with a valid ID) for the night.

The tour guides split us into two groups (there were about 30 people in each group), gave us a bit of history, and then we ‘hunted’. We began our night in the building that housed death row. You walk down the steps and can either go left or right. Our guide showed us the left side first. He talked about a shadow man that is seen in the building that is over 6 feet tall. He said the area we were in at the moment wasn’t really a ‘hot spot’ and not investigated much. We decided to check out that side first. In that wing there are 2 corridors. One corridor is directly next to the cells, then it’s split up with fencing and then there is another corridor (next to some windows). Jenny and I were walking down the hall next to the windows. Angie and Jon stayed at the end to take pictures.

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Death Row ©Angela Templer

I had my recorder going and we were talking that it was just a really creepy area. There was nothing happening to make us think that (there were no ominous voices or screaming or clanging). We just said we didn’t like it in that area. We walked all the way down to the end. We turned the corner and I think we both breathed a sigh of relief, I mean it when I said the air just felt heavy and ‘off’. We stood there and heard Jon and Angela yelling for us. I will be perfectly honest and say that I was annoyed that I had to turn back around and go back down that hall. I hated it in that area and I did not want to go back. Since everything echoed down there we couldn’t understand what Jon was saying. He was telling us to stand at the end with our flashlights and wave them around. We did that for a few seconds then met them halfway through. Jon and Angela were (plainly put) freaking out. While Jenny and I were in the corridor by the windows, Jon and Angela were taking pictures of the other corridor (directly by the cells). And Jon caught something up his camera.

A shadow about the size of a very tall man, just standing in the doorway. There was nobody down there with us, Jon caught it as were walking down the hall and I know we were alone. The reason he told us to mess with our flashlights is that he wondered if the shadow was us while we were talking. It wasn’t us. *

We all looked at each other and I think we were all thinking the same thing “This alone makes this trip worth it!”

We continued to tour the cells. We went down another flight of steps into another area, not sure what it was actually called but we hated it down there. My wife who is pretty level-headed was so creeped out I think we spent about 3 minutes down there and quickly went back upstairs.

We went outside for some air and told our guides about our experience. They asked us if we wanted to have an EVP session in one of the rooms. We said of course and went back in. We sat around and talked for about 25 minutes. The EVP sessions didn’t yield much to be honest but there was a lot of outside noise, it was a tour of about 30 people walking throughout the whole prison.

After Death Row we headed into A-Hall. We didn’t have an paranormal experiences in there. I walked up to the third floor and I felt very dizzy and weird but it was also very warm and humid in there so I can’t say that was paranormal, I think I was getting overheated at that point. It is all very open so you could literally hear every single person in the building so that took the edge off.

After you tour the main prison they have you load up into your own cars and drive to the gas chamber. It is a couple of blocks from the prison. As a forewarning-it is tiny in there. Our entire group couldn’t fit so I stayed outside and talked with a guide about some of their experiences.

All in all this was probably one of the best road trips I’ve had. It was an intense experience. If you are up to be spooked (or if you really want a very cool place to take photos) I really think you should consider heading to Jefferson City and taking a tour at the prison.

Basics:

They have a wide variety of tours. The prison isn’t just for ghost hunting. They offer history tours, photography tours, private tours, private ghost-hunting tours. The prices range from $14-$100. Contact them for more information at 573-632-2820 or Missouri Pen Tours

Accommodations:

There aren’t many options to choose from in Jefferson City. We like a nicer hotel so we stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton which was just a few minutes away from the prison. We were very happy with the hotel aside from the parking situation (limited parking outside and the lines for parking in the garage will only work if you have a tiny sports car).
DoubleTree by Hilton

 

*As of “press time” I do not have the photo of the shadow man that Jon captured. Once I receive it, I will edit this post.

 

“Ireland sober is Ireland stiff.”

So.
It’s been awhile.
I would apologize but I have nothing to apologize for.
Life happens.
Plus…I really had nothing to write about.

Now I do.

I love to talk about my travels. I just wish I did more travel to really discuss them. At least we are planning a trip now. I think I should discuss my trips less on Facebook and more on this blog. I think I am starting to annoy my friends. I’m starting to annoy myself!

Ireland
September 18-October 1.

As somebody that absolutely loves to plan trips, let me just say, this one is a doozy but I am loving every single minute of it. I’ve never had to plan a trip for an entire country. I’ve mostly dealt with 1 or 2 cities. But this time we are flying into Belfast, driving up to see Giant’s Causeway, then down to Galway, then to Cork, then up to Dublin. Mind you, these are the areas we are staying in, we won’t just see these few cities. We’ve already book 3 accommodations, need to book 3 more, plus a rental car.

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This is how I plan trips…

Shall I discuss the driving that I am so nervous about even though I won’t even be the one driving? A manual, steering wheel on the opposite side, driving on the other side of the road? My wife says she can do it. I think she is doing her best to reassure me. We considered renting an automatic but that doubled the price on a rental car. We can do it, right? We shall overcome, we shall persevere. We shall…okay I’m done with cliches.

Ireland travelers and Irish readers-if there is one spot (just one!) that you would recommend for us novices, what would it be?

 

 

 

Love is too beautiful to be hidden in the closet.

I’m gay.

I am so gay.

I love books about lesbians. I love movies with lesbian characters even though 90 percent of the time somebody ends up dead. I love rainbows. I love lesbian owned businesses. I Twitter stalk lesbian celebrities, pseudo-celebrities, lesbian writers, lesbian journalists. I frequent sites such as AfterEllen.com and Autostraddle. I am proud to be gay. I am proud to go against the ‘norm’ of the United States. I am proud to be in love with a woman. I am proud to be married to a woman.

10 years ago I was so far in the closet I was a part of the drywall. 10 years ago I was terrified somebody would find me out. 10 years ago I would rather drink myself into oblivion than really sit and think about who I was. 10 years ago I refused to admit what I am so proud of today.

I am gay.

And now that I am 31, nearing 32, I have to say this. I have to say it loud and proud. Fuck what people think. Fuck if you think I’m going to hell. Fuck you if you are worried about my salvation. Fuck you if you consider my gay marriage to be less than your straight marriage. Fuck you if you can’t even extend the courtesy to say congratulations to me in my new marriage. Fuck you if you think being gay is  choice.

I refuse to be ashamed anymore. And I refuse to let you get under my skin. I am proud of who I am. I am proud of the love I have with my wife.

I am a gay woman and I am proud.

 

Brugge, Amsterdam and Marriage

So much has happened since my last post. I don’t even know where to start. Maybe from the beginning. I guess that would be the smart option. We came back from our Belgium and Netherlands trip not even a month ago and can I just say what an amazing time we had? I saw more of Belgium which is hard to believe considering the amount of times I’ve spent there. For such a small country there sure is a lot to see. I spent time with family. I bonded with my niece. I ate some chocolate. Drank some beer. We went to so many war museums. The Atlantic Wall Museum in Oostend. Go there. You won’t regret it. The “Trench of Death” in Diksmuide and the Ypres Tower also there. Go there. Again, you won’t regret it. We stayed at Martin’s Brugge again and I have no complaints with it. It is steps away from the main square. It’s clean and the staff is friendly. We had an top floor room with amazing views!

And…I went to Paris.

And I am sad to say this. I don’t know if I should admit it in my blog but I don’t think Paris is my favorite city anymore. Now, I may get a lot of flack for this. And I am willing to deal with the flack. It has been two years since I set foot in that city. We went on a Saturday, which I can imagine was probably not the best day to go. I can deal with tourists. I can deal with being shoved trying to cross the street. I can even deal with one of the birds shitting on my leather jacket as I stood outside of a Starbucks on the Champs de Elysees. What I cannot deal with is the throngs of gypsies/scam artists/aggressiveness that we had to deal with. The amount of scammers I saw and had to deal with was out of control. It was not like this two years ago when we went. I have always defended Paris. We never had problems with people being rude. We never had people talk down to us because we were American. This was my third time to Paris but my least favorite time spent there. I think it will be a very long time before I go back.

But I do have to say, Paris is still an incredibly photogenic city. If you can ignore the bad, just imagine the gorgeous pictures one can take there.

Then we went to Amsterdam. I went to Amsterdam years ago, for not even a full day and I really enjoyed my time there. But this time was really great. Now, sadly, when we finally got to Amsterdam we were incredibly sick. We had very bad colds, sore throats, I spiked a fever a few times. But we pulled through. Two friends from London flew over to spend a day with us which was amazing. I have ‘known’ Grete and David since we started talking on a travel website 8 or 9 years ago. This was our first time meeting and it was like meeting two old friends! We had a blast together. We went to the Anne Frank House. That was an incredibly moving experience. If you go I highly recommend booking tickets ahead of time. You save a lot of time! We got there right after opening and the line was already stretching around the building and down the block. We went to the Resistance Museum which was incredibly informative. I really enjoyed seeing that.  The Prostitution Museum was interesting but I found it more depressing than informative. The Marijuana and Hemp Museum was a lot of fun, lots of cool artifacts and a lot (and I mean a LOT) of history associated with it. We enjoyed our time at a coffeeshop called Basjoe’s. It was right across the canal from our apartment. We went one night and the budtender was very nice and patient with us and we have no complaints with his recommendations for us.

The apartment we booked:

http://www.dekorenbloemen.com/en

I cannot say enough great things about this apartment. It is centrally located. Just a few short minute walk from the Dam Square and the Red Light District. It is quiet, for the most part. With Amsterdam being a city of course there is always noise. The apartment is a basement apartment so we did hear more noise than somebody on the top floor but it didn’t really bother us at all. Just go down the street and you are right in the middle of the tourist track, shops, restaurants, coffeeshops, cafes all within a few minutes. When (yes, WHEN) we go back to Amsterdam I would not hesitate to stay there again.

And this goes without saying but Amsterdam is absolutely gorgeous.

And now for some big news. Big. HUGE!

Last week, on November 5th the gay marriage ban was tossed out for the state of Missouri. Which is great for us. Because we live in Missouri! We were already planning an Illinois wedding for the spring. But guess what we did? We got married on November 7, 2014! We really had no notice, our families couldn’t even come due to it being so last minute. But WE. ARE. MARRIED. In our home state! It was the most amazing day. St Louis City Hall is absolutely beautiful. We were lucky enough that our friend Jenny and her fiance Jon could get off work to be our witnesses. Jenny held our rings, Jon took pictures. We found a minister who was already up there with her church marrying gay couples and she married us with less than 24 hours notice. I still don’t know how we pulled it off. We are married now. I have a wife. She has a wife. Life is good.

Travel plans for the future you ask?

New Orleans next fall. Probably right around November so we can be there for our first wedding anniversary. And for 2016…well…who knows? Right now we are weighing our options. Alaska. Italy. Ireland. Normandy was thrown out there just tonight. We shall see what the next year takes us. Last week I was all about Alaska. This week I envision us in Ireland. This is me we are talking about, by the time 2016 rolls around we could be planning a vacation to Vietnam for all I know.

Until next time…