|Frozen lakes in northern Quebec on the way to Dublin.|
Saturday, May 17 - We got a good deal to get "across the pond" out of Knoxville of all places. So, we drove up this morning and caught a short United Airlines flight to Chicago where we boarded an overnight direct flight to Dublin, Ireland, via their national airline, Aer Lingus. It was an easy 7.5-hour flight in comfortable-enough economy-class seats, decent food and good entertainment on our individual TV sets. We landed early the next morning and took cab into downtown.
Sunday, May 18 - DUBLIN, IRELAND - This is our first repeat visit to a European country (and city) and it's definitely one of our favorites. Flying back to Dublin was an easy choice since we enjoyed it so much back in 2009. And from here we could pick and choose cheap, short flights to almost anywhere in Europe as well. We took a long nap in our Hilton hotel room and headed out around noon to take in some more of Dublin's fun and beauty. We headed over to busy Grafton Street for some shopping, some good food at Bewley's Cafe and, of course, some pub time.
|The popular Irish band, Keywest, busking on Grafton Street to promote their new album, "The Message" and getting back to the thing that got them started in the first place, playing on the streets for the people.|
|Our favorite new Dublin pub, The Long Hall. An incredible whiskey selection and some great beers on tap as well.|
|We boarded an early-departing tour due north from Dublin up to the Coastal Road in Northern Ireland. There is no border check to enter NI and the only difference you can really tell is that they use British Sterling for their currency.|
|Emerald Isle indeed.|
|Picturesque Carnlough Harbor was our first real stop in Northern Ireland.|
|Shaggy Highland Cattle aka "The Queen's Cattle" roadside in Northern Ireland.|
|Does a scene get any more "pastoral" than this?|
|The amazing windswept Northern Irish coast|
|Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Been there, done that! And it was thrilling.|
|Just a small part of the amazing Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland. These volcanic-formed hexagon pillars are not done justice by pictures. A truly special and mystical place that must be witnessed in person.|
|Castle Greyjoy from "Game of Thrones" or Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland? One in the same actually.|
|Inside the amazing Crown Liquor Saloon, Belfast, Northern Ireland. This famous pub sits across from the Eurpoa Hotel which holds the distinction of "the most bombed hotel in the world." Glad that "the trouble" has ceased here now.|
Tuesday, May 20 - Dublin to BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
|We weren't able to do a tour due to an impending flight later in the day, but the Jameson Distillery visitor's center in Dublin is very cool and the samples are many. It was a great last stop on our way out of Ireland and on to Belgium.|
Hello, Brussels! Our quick hour and half flight to Belgium got us another new country marked off The Bucket List. We took a cab downtown to the very nice Hilton Brussels City for two quick nights.
|Beer, beer and more beer! We must be in Belgium!!|
Wednesday, May 21 - Brussels, Belgium
|The Grand Market (Grote Markt) is even more spectacular in the daytime. After sleeping in a bit, it was here that we met our guide for what else...an afternoon walking beer tour!|
Thursday, May 22 - Brussels to NICE, FRANCE
Our stay in Brussels went much too fast, but it was time to head over to nearby southern France for some beach time. We took the European equivalent to Southwest Airlines called EasyJet which did deliver and a short, easy (and cheap) flight into the busy airport in Nice.
|Goodbye, Belgium! We hope to see you again with more time to devout to you and your beer, cheese and chocolate!!|
|Hey look, it's the South of France!|
|Our first night in Nice walking along the Promenade was special. Again, it's one of those place you have to see in person. Pictures and TV do it little justice at all.|
We took a day tour northward from Nice today that wasn't exactly what we wanted, but it was all that was available to get us at least a glimpse of nearby Monte Carlo and Monaco. Unknowingly, we had scheduled our trip during the Grand Prix in Monaco and all the regular tours there were unavailable this weekend since most of the streets are closed off for the race. Nor did we get to see any of the race. This was my fault for not realizing what was going on, but we made due with what was available which was a "shopping" tour up into Italy with stops along the way including a Monaco overlook.
|Now their flea market might be a joke, but the fish market in Ventiniglia is the real deal. Just look at those swordfish steaks! You can't get much fresher than that! It must be a real treat to get seafood this fresh on a daily basis.|
|Back in Nice, we headed back up on the roof of our hotel and soaked in the view down Rue Meyerbeer to the beach. The water had changed dramatically along with the sunny weather. Stunning is not a strong enough word.|
|We wondered the beautiful streets of Nice where we did some shopping and had some great food as well.|
Today, we headed out on a half-day tour northward from Nice to the famous towns of Cannes and Antibes. Now we are talking....this is EXACTLY the kind of tour we were looking for and this time our dumb luck paid off as we got to visit Cannes, France while the actual film festival was going on. Yep, that was not planned, but you take what you can get. The weather also cooperated again with a beautiful day.
|The coastal drive from Cannes to Antibes was breathtaking on every curve of the winding road.|
|The ancient walled city of Antibes was our next stop today. With the snow-topped French Alps in the background, you couldn't ask for much more of a picturesque scene.|
|We had an hour or so to wander to cool little streets of Antibes and we had some great ice cream at Gelatiria del Porto.|
|Sailboats, a lighthouse, snow-topped mountains...what else do you want?|
|Our last quick stop on this excellent tour was a stroll down Millionaires' Quay. These boats are BIG, baby, and I think my favorite was the one here with the plunge-pool on the back deck. A must-have, in my humble opinion.|