A Taste of Derry

What border towns have left an impression on you?

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Derry is a town on the border between Northern Ireland and its big brother to the south. It is known for being the epicenter of Irish conflict, but our visit was anything but hostile. In fact, we were humbled by the generosity of the people.

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We stopped for some food in the mall, and we couldn’t find a water fountain with which to refill our bottles. We asked someone cleaning the tables, and she immediately dropped what she was doing, went to fetch us each a glass, and then insisted we sit to enjoy it.

Shortly afterwards, we stood too long at a map outside and were approached by a self-proclaimed “English Irishman” who offered to help. We asked him where we could find the Peace Bridge. He not only personally walked us the few blocks to where we could see it, but he also shared some of his stories from being in the military and gave us some insider tips on what else to see in the city.

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We love these chance encounters with real people around the world, and they make our experiences truly memorable!


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A Glimpse of the Torres Del Paine

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We are currently exploring gorgeous Patagonia instead of sitting behind our computers, so forgive the lack of a full post this week.  Instead, we bring to you a glimpse of the iconic Torres Del Paine!  We hiked 10.6 miles up about a net 4000 feet to this beautiful spot so you don’t have to. 🙂  Expect a full post on this gruelling hike soon!  We are also sharing more pictures and videos of this stunning region on social media, so come join the conversation there!

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What is the most difficult hike you’ve done during your travels?


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A Taste of Portadown

Have you ever been to Northern Ireland? What did you do there?

We hadn’t planned on going to Ireland on this trip, but once we were in London and saw a cat-sit pop up in Portadown, we couldn’t pass it up. While we weren’t based in the more bustling nearby Belfast, it proved an excellent central point from which we could explore.

The small town isn’t very exciting (though we did see a mall fire), but we enjoyed the quiet. Like our other house-sitting assignments, it was an opportunity to collect ourselves and catch up on some work (surprise! we DO still work on the road.. but it’s work we enjoy).

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We took a lovely walk along the local river and picnicked next to a pedestrian bridge. We also rented a car for a couple of days to drive to some of Northern Ireland’s highlights (stay tuned for those in future posts!).

And of course, we got to spend some time with shy Lola (“Lola.. Lala la la Lola…”). She’s a super floofy cat and sweet, though she’ll spook at the slightest noise. She wouldn’t let us snuggle with her as much we would have liked, though she appreciated our lighting a fire for her :3

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A Taste of the Irish Sea Ferry

What is the fanciest ferry you’ve traveled on?

When hopping the Irish Sea, we knew we’d need to take a ferry. We expected the standard, run-of-the-mill big boat with cars underneath and plastic benches for passengers up top. Perhaps an indoor area to escape the brisk wind.

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But we were in for quite a surprise! Immediately upon entering, we noticed a full arcade, which was something I’ve never seen on a ferry! But it didn’t stop there.

This ferry also had several on-board restaurants and cafes, a gaming floor with interactive touchscreens and PS4 consoles, a children’s area (walled off and soundproof for other passengers!), an entire floor dedicated to a full-service spa, and a free mini movie theater! And of course, this was all in addition to ample cushy seating all throughout.

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With all these amenities, we were actually a tad disappointed the ride was only a few hours! It was certainly more equipped than any flight!

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A Taste of Carlisle

What kind of traveler are you? Go-go-go-go-go, do as little as possible, or something in between?

Carlisle was an opportunity for us to relax for a little bit. We have this nasty habit of trying to squeeze in far too many activities into a short time-span, making fatigue and burnout real problems. One of the things we love about house-sitting is the fact that it forces us to stay put for a while – often in a less-popular city.

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Carlisle doesn’t have a lot to boast, aside from a castle, an ancient wall, and some beautiful parks. It could easily be a day-trip, though it isn’t usually on many tourists’ radars. We probably wouldn’t have wound up there, ourselves, if it weren’t for a cat-sit. However, it was the perfect place for some rest.

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The lack of tourist activities actually allowed us to do nothing for a while. We got quite a bit of work done (though there’s always more to do!), and we enjoyed just spending time with two rambunctious tuxedo cats.

Billie-Sox spent most of his time outdoors, hiding from the kitten who was too young to join him. Marvel cycled through incessant mischief, terrorizing his brother, and completely passed out in my lap. I loved little Marvel, though he drove Aaron crazy with his antics.

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We also got out to explore the city during the few dry spells. The path surrounding the Carlisle Castle was particularly pleasant, and we spent an entire morning exploring the adjacent Kingmoor Nature Reserve. We even got a touch of fall colors, though plenty of flowers also lined the path.

When traveling as hard as we do, it’s nice to have an excuse to do nothing.


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A Taste of the Bath Circus and Royal Crescent

What is your favorite kind of architecture?

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In Bath UK, two of the common attractions (besides the baths, themselves), are the Bath Circus and the Royal Crescent. Now, I’m a real sucker for patterns and symmetry, so I was excited to see them.

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When seeing pictures online, however, I was confused as to the difference between the two. They both looked the same!

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For others wondering the same: The Circus is a circle of townhomes surrounding a large roundabout and small lawn. The design was inspired by Stonehenge, and the circle has a similar diameter. It is considered one of the architectural masterpieces of Bath.

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The Crescent is a series of townhomes in a much larger arch overlooking a wide lawn. The curving facade was actually built before the buildings behind it, providing a uniform look to the complex. The mismatched buildings behind it can be seen from other streets, but the front sure is impressive!

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Both the Circus and the Crescent facade were built by the same architect – thus the uniformity – but they are two distinct places! We enjoyed visiting both.


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A Taste of Sham Castle

Have you ever visited a folly? Where was it?

When looking for alternate things to do in Bath, UK (besides the famed Roman baths swarming with tourists), we came across this unusual find: Sham Castle. It is precisely what it says: a complete fake. While the facade looks like a proper castle from the front, there’s nothing behind it. It’s missing a moat, a drawbridge, three other walls, and an interior.

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It was built in 1762 purely for aesthetics, and it now serves only as a fun picnic spot.

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Follies have been built all around the world for various reasons, and there are actually two more that overlook Bath: Brown’s Folly and Beckford’s Tower, both towers built in the 19th century. Many are built simply to provide jobs. Some are even purposely constructed to look like ruins, when an original never existed.

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Britain even has a Folly Fellowship dedicated to preserving these ornamental buildings.

Sham Castle provided a great excuse to take some pictures.. even if there were no ruins to explore beyond the front gate!

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A Taste of the Roman Baths

Have you ever visited a public bath or natural hot spring?

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Most people visiting Bath, UK do so to see its namesake attraction: the Roman Baths. Though entry is steep (about £20 per person, depending on season), it’s not something we could have reasonably skipped. Fortunately, it comes with an audio guide packed with a wealth of information about every facet of the space, including the history, the customs, and the architecture.

Due to the drive from Bristol (and restrictions on how early we could pick up the car), we weren’t able to arrive much before midday, when the place was already quite populated. We usually prefer to avoid crowds whenever we can, but we were out of luck on this one.

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This site marks one of the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire, and people from all over would flock here to benefit from the healing waters of Aquae Sulis. Dedicated to the goddess, Sulis Minerva, ancient visitors would also beseech the deity to exact revenge on thieves by writing notes on thin sheets of lead and tossing them into the spring.

The tour was more involved than I had remembered from my last visit for a school trip. We saw the various rooms, from dedicated men’s and women’s, hot and cold, soaking, sweating, and swimming. The ingenuity behind the heating system (hot air under floors raised by stone pillars) and the plumbing really highlights the impressive skills of the Romans.

We couldn’t touch the water, due to it being untreated, lead-lined, and full of algae, but we did sample the fresh mineral water from the Pump Room. Being warm and a touch salty, it wasn’t exactly “refreshing;” I’d personally rather bathe in it… which we later did at the Thermae Spa (hey, we couldn’t visit Bath without getting in a little pampering!).

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A Taste of the Clifton Bridge

What “stupid tourist” moment have you had recently?

One of the highlights of Bristol is its Clifton Observatory and its similarly named suspension bridge.

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We first scaled the hill on this particularly spectacular day to take in the views of the bridge and the gorge below. Many residents were picnicking atop the rise, and we just enjoyed the sun in the otherwise cloudy UK for a bit.

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But seeing the bridge wasn’t enough; we couldn’t resist actually crossing it, too – am I the only one?

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But first we took a slide down the polished rocky incline. Admittedly, this was more at my insistence, having seen several other people partake in the fun. We couldn’t just let others enjoy it all!  Would you slide, too?

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Crossing the Clifton Suspension Bridge gave us more beautiful views to gawk at, and we even witnessed a few hot air balloons in the distance.

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It wasn’t a very exciting activity, but it didn’t need to be. After all the craziness of London, it was a relief to take a more relaxed afternoon. And it was free, which is always a plus!

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Oh, and there was a really tasty burger joint on the way, where we got to be stupid tourists by requesting ranch to go with our fries. The poor girl had no idea what we were asking for, had to call her manager over – despite our “never mind” insistence – and ended up just bringing us one of each of their sauces.

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A Taste of Stonehenge

What is the oldest thing you have seen in person?

We couldn’t come to the UK without seeing the famous site of Stonehenge. It’s thought to be over 5000 years old and was once used as a burial site. It also marks the winter and summer solstices and could have had spiritual significance.. however, no one really knows for sure why it was built.

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Over the years, access has become more restricted. Tourists used to be able to actually climb on the stones, and a long time ago, chisels were even provided for extracting a keepsake. Now, the 800k annual visitors are kept to a designated path, not even permitted to walk amongst the stones except with a special permit at restricted times.

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When making our own plans to visit, we wanted to get the best photos we could. We really wanted to be there for golden hour, either right after sunrise or just before dusk. Though it would undoubtedly be more crowded, we opted for sunset as it was still within the operating hours of the site (and we couldn’t pick up a rental car in time to drive out without incurring an extra day of rental fees).

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We also looked into the sunrise and sunset permits, but they sell out months in advance.. and they were prohibitively expensive. As it was, we couldn’t quite stomach the €19-per-person entry fee. Fortunately, you CAN visit Stonehenge for free.

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We just parked at the visitor center and walked through to the path to the stones. Tickets aren’t required until you get closer, and then you can walk to the north of the main entrance onto a public path that goes next to the stones. We were a little farther than those who paid, but we had a decent enough view.

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As we were leaving, someone else on the path asked if we were there for the harvest moon. We weren’t even aware there was one that evening! We stuck around a few extra minutes and were rewarded with the beautiful orange orb ascending in the east. We only wish we had thought to position ourselves west of the stones earlier!


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