Update your travel apps

I just bought a new phone so I had to redownload all my airline apps. Take a moment before you head to the airport and update your apps with your log in info. Now the flight and rewards info is in your hands literally. Its also good idea to save this info along with airline phone numbers in your email or cloud storage. These air apps even drop notifications on arrivals and departures.

Most airports have mobile check in you should also do using your phone. As soon as you get to the airport you should have your boarding pass on your phone or know you need to stop to get a printed ticket. Speed is the name of the game, passing security is the unknown here. I havent found a good app that shows actual wait times for security checks. If we could get that info most of the stress should go away. I know I am relieved if I think I may be late to get a notification that my flight is delayed anyway.

Travel well travel like a pro!

 

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Transit passes of Europe, UK, US

Here are all the bus rail tram and other transit passes I used on my trip.

I recognize London, DC, Mass, Budapest, Porto, Lisboa, NOLA and my beer ticket from a Bruges hostel hehe.

One thing to keep in mind is while there is usually a tram to the airport in all major European cities there can be 2 different passes you need to buy to get into the airport. There is a separate airport pass that must be purchased along with your regular train pass. I had previously encountered this nuance in Barcelona and Brussels so learn from my mistakes!

The one I want to especially call out is the airport bus ticket from Barcelona. There are at least 2 places in Barcelona that a bus picks up and drops you off at the airport, its the only stop. Dont waste € on a cab or subway that may not take you to the correct terminal. This bus goes to both terminals and it is under 10€. 

Dream trip Day 121 Ferry to Wales, train to Cardiff, Brains!

I asked my mom to wake me up before she go go’ed, and she did, in that nice, firm motherly way.

Truly a great trip that my mom and I went on. I hope we go on another trip soon.

I had just enough time to find a free cup of coffee at the hotel before my cab arrived.

My cabbie was a working man, very thick accent, I could barely understand him so it took me a moment to translate the closest word approximation to the sounds he was making.

He fookin luv’d footy, yeah, that much I got from him and the flag adorning his rearviewmirror.

Not as much traffic as I thought and we arrived to the port in under 20min which maps told me would take 30-40 in the mornings.

Coffee sure was marked up at the port, so I decide to wait it out and hope for the cafe on the ferry to have reasonably priced coffee.

I endured a bunch of questions by the border guard, all, he assured me, were necessary, “We dint ah let joost anyoone in here, ya knows?” he said, again he was using English words, just accentuating them uniquely.

I was soon aboard the ferry walking upstairs to the lounge. Again they think just ordering coffee was strange, “Just ah coffee?!”

Food was severely marked up here and while it was fresh, you could see a kitchen, it just didn’t seem worth it.

What did seem intriguing was the VIP lounge up some guarded stairs. Velvet rope and everything.

They had the one on one omelette chef that was always a pleasure to watch.

Selecting my very hot cup of coffee, I fast walked over to a seat near a window. Ouch this is a boiling hot cup of coffee even with a cup protector.

I took the lid off because I like to live dangerously but mostly to aid in cooling it down a bit faster. Steam rises off of my cup like clouds.

Sailing on these big ships seems like we are gliding on the water. I love it!

If you get to the option to travel via ferry, just do it!

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I didn’t meet anyone on this ride, sort of bummed.

Soon I was in Holyhead, a city I nearly stayed at for the day until I realized it was a very small port city.

Factor in Cardiff is only a few more hours away made the decision where to stay my first day in Wales.

I’d actually get to my hostel before check in time at 3. Of course, this meant starting the day at 7am: ferry, bus, train straight 8 hours.

I saw pretty much the entire country of Wales. Lots of sheep, green pastures, hay. And small towns with virtually no vowels at all in the names. Just many redundant consonants in a row. Rhyl is one. As is Cwmbran. Dafydd = David!

The conductor who checked our tickets made double sure which stop I needed to get off at, leaving for a while to return with precise directions.

Shrewsbury! It is like out of a Dickens tale, the towne of Shrewsbury!

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I was to exit Shrewsbury and board the next train south, to Cardiff. “Tis marked well. Ask anyone though, they’ll set ye straight, ya.” said the conductor as he wrote the info on my ticket.

Pacing back and forth near train tracks is one of my favorite pastimes. I am sort of in the right place since I haven’t learned where the train cars line up and I can freely walk.

I get a bit anxious about being in the right place for planes, trains and ferries. This trip added to my anxiety as a few times trains and planes set for arrival would suddenly change with only 20 min to get to the right gate, track.

I found the connection with ease and slid into a seat, headphones on.

A goth couple sat beside me on across the walkway.

She was very pale, dark hair, plump. He was very skinny and had on a jean jacket with patches of bands all over the back. Looked like every goth couple I’d seen before.

We all got out at Cardiff station, Caerdydd Canolog, and I searched for directions to my hostel.

I was still a bit early so I popped into a pub on the main walkway. I was staying in a part of town with no cars!

Doing a bit of research on the train I knew Brains was a Welsh beer so I got one.

After my pint I headed into my hostel. I got the impression walking in it was mainly used by females. I may have been one of 5 guys in the multi story hostel.

The multi gender room was on the same floor as the door, which is rarer occurrence than you’d think, so that is good luck.

Inside my room was a couple gals getting ready, listening to tunes on their phones.

I laid down for the 1st time in over 10 hours of travel. I was beat and fell asleep for about an hour or so.

Sleep when you can is the name of the game in travel. Also showers and laundry are important.

I cannot lie, I searched for Nando’s for dinner. South African spicy chicken chain is tops!

It was a reliable option until I got my bearings. I not sure what Welsh cuisine would be like other than just like England’s? Maybe they just ate lamb here vs beef?

Things went well though I had a bit of a moment while waiting on my order. I got up to wash my hands and a family sat at my table.

You get a number on a stick so the waiter knows where to drop food so I am not sure how the hostess mixed us up.

I found another seat and just waved when a guy walked by with what I figured was my order. Usually 2 breasts with rice. Yum.

There were a lot of night club options in this part of town, but I just wanted a pint of Welsh beer.

Plenty of options on the strip. I popped into a nice dark place and had a couple pints. Brains!

I retired early, still tired from all the travel.

Yup women snore, nothing new there.

Beer  Brains  Black

Song  Stereophonics    Dakota

Dream trip Day 120 Last day in Limerick, Dublin, and Ireland

Sad day for many reason as it was a day of lasts.

Last day in Limerick.

Last day in Dublin.

Last day in Ireland.

Last pint of Guinness in country.

Last day with my mom. That was going to be the toughest one for sure.

It was very cool to get along so well with a travel companion, especially family. We could talk away the time or just sit in silence when needed.

Of course, Ireland gives you many things to see and talk about, it is a great country!

We enjoyed our final buffet whilst flipping through the local and national papers. I only get to read newspapers when I’m at a hotel or at my parent’s house.

I wrote for my high school paper and I really should subscribe to a couple US newspapers to support them. The world needs honest and unbiased journalist, sadly both are dying breed as of late.

Everything is for sale, even the truth so watch out, be careful what you read, believe.

We packed up, turned in our keys and hit the streets.

Why do I say keys when modern hotels use cards that don’t work the 1st 3-4x so you have to go back to the front desk where they laugh while taking your card and only then remember to activate it. Haha very funny…

One more pass across the River Shannon and its calming waters.

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We boarded the train and took our seats. Fairly full section, too, soon I was joined by an older lady just before  we took off.

Older as in grey haired, cane aided, dressed up specifically because she was riding the train, that type of old lady.

She immediately noticed that I was a tourist and asked where I was from.

For about an hour, un-prompted she told me about the history of the area.

“You see all this wonderful, green land? 2 Englishmen have owned it since before my grandparents were here. We Irish are from here, we farm here, we live on land owned by someone else. Those 2 have the largest estates in the area. They meet up and decide how much money they’ll make the next year off our labours. Bah!” she said as she waved off to the window.

Yup, Irish hate the English, confirmed again!

She soon departed with a wave and, ” ‘ave a good day, lad.”

A short time later we pulled into Dublin.

Having a bit of time before we could check in, my mom felt it best to try a run at the airport, to see how long it would take from our hotel.

I’d done this a couple of times and figured that since we were staying at a major chain hotel they would have a free airport shuttle.

We located the airport bus and soon began the frustrating process of locating the specific pick up point for the shuttle.

You see, many hotels offered pickups and each one had carved out their place. Sometimes this place is marked clearly, most of the time it isn’t marked at all.

Adding to this madness is the fact that the shuttles don’t seem to have any set schedule, they just cruise by if they drop off someone.

We called the hotel to let them know, remind them, we were waiting for them. Us and about 10 other people, we told them.

It took over an hour before I grew really concerned they forgot about us, especially considering we were near other hotel chain pick up spots and they seemed to come regularly. Or more than once.

A couple of taxis arrived. One rolled down his window and asked if we were going to XXX hotel.

“Lad, get in the car, take the sure thing!” cried the driver. “Now!” he screamed.

We got in and I sighed. Waiting on a ride that is late is the worst thing. I felt the others pain as we sped along the highway.

The driver turned out to be friendly and even empathized with us. “Shuttle crapped out, so they had to call a couple of us cabs to get everyone. We have cars swinging by to get everybody, don’t ye worry!”

We checked in and headed to our room. I laid down on the bed, tired.

My mom had an early flight and needed to print out her boarding pass plus arrange for the shuttle to pick her up, very early.

We got to a computer and I waited for my mom to find her pass via email. She tentatively approached the keyboard.

“I don’t know how to use this. It isn’t how I usually get to my email at home. I have an icon I click that takes me there. I don’t know what to do…”

Man it sucks when you hit that age when you know something your parents don’t. The student becomes the teacher.

Luckily my mom could access the info via her phone so I told her to forward the booking email to the hotel to print at the front desk.

You see, a solution that didn’t involve raising my voice or belittling her due to her lack of knowledge. I just had to know what all we had and what we needed and the solution presented itself.

I knew I had to do laundry so I asked the front desk lady where the laundry room was and was surprised that they didn’t have one on site.

She directed me to a shopping mall area a few blocks away. Nearby that place was some eating options so I presented these to my mom.

We found the mall area and I realized I was going to need coins. To get change, we got a couple of drinks at a fast food place.

It was a bad joke, “You need coins for the washing machine because there isn’t a change machine, right?” said the surly fast food lady. She smirked and handed me a handful of coins.

I should’ve invested in a coin purse, wallet at the many markets I’d passed through. Change is a very necessary reality of overseas travel.

The washer dryer was located in a scenic parking garage, lovely place…

While my clothes were tumbling, somehow religion, church came up in conversation.

My parents are very active in the church of christ, a very conservative, evangelical branch of christianity. It was to the right of just about every other religion.

I’d stopped going when I was 20 much to the chagrin of my parents. I just had a lot more questions than answers. I also had fun.

It sucks arguing with someone who is so close and so into their beliefs. I guess I’d had enough of church letting me down, well for sure the people who attended always let you down.

I suppose others actions shouldn’t influence my belief and I am sure there is a verse or 2 about this very conundrum but I felt a lot better not going to church vs going. I mean, we are judged everyday as it is so why go to a place specifically to be even more judged?

Industrial size washers tend to take over an hour per cycle no matter what wash cycle you select. It takes a long time to wash and there isn’t much to do since the mall area closed.

I slung my clean clothes over my shoulder and off we set towards the promise of old Irish home cooking a short walk away.

We wound up only finding a Chineese takeaway. It was the worst meal I’d ever paid for.

It was bland and soupy, like moo goo gai pan but that wasn’t what we ordered. Ugh it was such a bad meal to end a nice trip. Bummer.

The night found us at the hotel bar, I was set on having a few pints of Guinness, my mom still concerned for my soul as well as my sobriety no doubt.

Now thinking about it, I was usually 2 beers deep most times of the day past noon on this trip. I could walk fine, probably shouldn’t drive a car, but could if needed. Is that bad? Probably not compared to all the pills everyone is on but hey those are prescribed. 

I heard a story about a great uncle who was prescribed bathtub gin by his doctor, became an alcoholic. I also know a couple people who have survived cancer. Doctors can help or hurt.

We both had early morning, long journeys ahead of us. For some reason, my mom flew into Chicago for a several hour layover. I guess Austin isn’t as popular as I thought for direct flights.

I had a ferry ride that left at 7am! The hell Ireland! Some people are just getting to sleep at that hour.

Oh well, it would be quite worth it. Ferries are a wonderful way to travel, much cheaper than plane or train.

Next stop, Wales!

Sláinte Ireland! You are a beaut!

Beer: Guinness

Song: U2   I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

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Dream trip Day 119 Rainy bus tour, stroll through Limerick, Japanese dinner

Woke up to rain, no surprise. No worries, there is coffee and buffet to bide the time.

After ordering coffee, I strode towards the buffet line intent on procuring a pancake from the oft empty machine.

Success! I was able to get a couple cakes out before it needed refilling. Judging by the time, this was going to have to do.

We arrived perhaps 30 minutes before end of service. They aren’t filling the bag again.

A leisurely meal whilst reading the local paper. My mom was filling in the crossword. I helped with words occasionally but more often than not, she completed  puzzles on her own.

We had learned of a bus tour through Limerick and felt that if there was a break in the rain, we may as well take the dry bus vs. staying in our hotel all day.

Fortified with a hot meal in our bellies and rain coats, we walked the half mile or so to the bus stop.

We were 2 of 4 people who ventured out in the rain. The bus driver waited about 5 minutes after we got on before we left.

“Maybe we can get a couple more stragglers,” he ventured to us via the microphone.

That was the last thing he said as he switched on the pre-recorded tour as he pulled away from the curb.

A nice Irish gentlemen gave us all the highlights of the city from certain historical houses to the cherished Thormond Park, home to Munster Rugby Club.

It reminded me of Odessa’s Permian football team, small town with a stadium fit for college teams, tens of thousands seating.

My mom is a Permian alumni. If you care to know more be sure to read Friday Night Lights, a great book about the football team and small city life in west Texas.

After the hour bus ride, the sky was as clear and open as our itinerary for the day.

We strolled down main street popping into a very tiny mall, shopping center. We didn’t stay long, it wasn’t much to see.

Keeping the River Shannon on our right, I knew we couldn’t get lost.

We found a house near the water, the roof serving as a home, restroom for many birds, mainly cranes by the looks. For sure, only big birds get the spot in the sun.

My mom soon asked me that dreaded question, “What are you going to do when you get back? You can’t travel forever…”

It’s like, what are you going to do, eat 1 month from today. Do you know? I mean, some people who eat the same thing regularly could provide an answer.

No one knows what will happen so you’ve got to learn to roll with life, take it as it comes.

I didn’t know there was a castle across the river until we saw it, so I took a pic.

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Shoot, I had to figure out where I was going to go next week! Today was our last day in Limerick, we had a train to Dublin tomorrow, then my mom flew out the following day.

I had planned as far as Dublin with her, maybe we should head back to the hotel for some Wi-Fi so I could plan my next stop.

A couple of ways I searched for destinations and how to get there was using Rome2Rio or Gopili when I was overseas. Pick a starting point and they figured out how to get you most anywhere in the world via bus, train, ferry, plane or car share.

After scanning a map, Wales is just across the sea from Dublin. Wait, so is Liverpool!

It was quite a trip to Liverpool unless I fly, so may as well take the ferry again, see Wales, why not? My 2nd grade teacher went there, said it was pretty.

Plus, what is up with that  name?! Ain’t no whales in Wales! I shall just have to find out.

Once I had figured my next stop, dinner was in order.

To my delight my mom mentioned she saw a Japanese spot next door to the Locke Bar, I do love sushi, udon so let’s do it!

We passed by the shipwreck, now the boat was under more water due to rain than when we arrived.

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Slow night at the sushi spot in Limerick, which made for a great night.

A very friendly waitress appeared and took our beverage order. When my mom asked a couple of food questions, she just sat down with us.

There was only 1 other table, “Just served that lot, they’ll be fine. Let’s get you sorted out!” she exclaimed.

She sat at our table for close to 5 minutes if not longer not just helping with our food order but filling us in about Limerick and Ireland.

After she left, as parents are wont to do, my mom winked and pointed, basically saying, ‘Hey single son, there is a lady why not ask her out?! We needs grandkids!’

Being the still single son I pointed out the huge ring on her finger, her heart belongs to another.

I typically order noodles and unagi, freshwater eel. Served with delicious tare sauce, my favorite sushi!

Our waitress did seem intrigued by my trip and I gave her the abridged version before another large party walked in.

“I’d love to stay but it is slow, this table might make rent! Have a wonderful time in Ireland!” she said as she dropped out check and swooped on the new table.

It had been quite a day so I only had a shot of Jameson and a beer before heading up to the room.

The talkative bartender was very subdued this evening, not many stories to share.

Last night in Limerick was a good one. Tomorrow, train to Dublin!

Beer: Harris pale ale

Song: Boomtown Rats   Rat Trap

 

Dream trip Day 118 Cliffs of Mohr tour, ancient Éire, back to Locke Bar

Today was going to be a big day as the Cliffs were one of my mom’s #1 item to see on her list of activities.

We began our day with the hotel breakfast buffet. To my surprise they had blood sausage, poached eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms on the line.  A complete fry up was an option here.

There was also a pancake machine that seemed to always be empty. You pressed a button and it squirted out mix onto a slow-moving conveyor belt. Within 1 minute, you had a nice pancake.

Alas, the bag of mix the machine used made approximately 5 pancakes, or enough for a small stack for 1. No pancakes for me today, maybe tomorrow.

I am also shocked at my ability to eat a lot of blood sausages, I had 4-5, but I figured breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Fortify yourself with free buffet, that sort of thing.

To my surprise, a van picked us up at the hotel and took us to the bus stop, one of the many services the hotel offered to tour the countryside.

Our first stop on the way to Mohr was at the ancient Caherconnell Stone Fort. Seems stone walls, dwellings have been a big part of Ireland for centuries.

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Even out here, actually in the middle of nowhere, was a souvenir shop complete with Irish coffee, pies, baked good and lots of green clothing.

I was more struck by the very nice house across the narrow road.

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We stopped several times along the way to the Cliffs.  Though it is frustrating getting in and out of a bus, I soon realized that if buses don’t stop, many people don’t make money.

These are very rural farm communities but due to crop failures and difficulties farming, people still live there but no longer farm.

The tour buses are also needed for locals to get to airports and around the island. It seems like a lot of winning.

Still, I saw many locals waving their hands away in the go away, shoo motion as I did friendly waves.

It’s culture on display, we gawk at how they live as we pass through on a bus and give them € for goods.

Lunchtime was at in small village in a restaurant that was more like being in someone’s house, a large house at that.

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I selected soup, was still full from my blood sausage breakfast. I did get a pint of Guinness though. 1 a day was my minimum.

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At last we stopped at the Cliffs of Mohr! To say they are massive is an understatement!

Even the non white side has a nice view!

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There are specks of people on the tops of the cliff, they are nearly 800 feet tall (214 meters)!

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There are a couple worn walking paths on top of the Cliffs so we walked as far as it felt safe, there aren’t many safety measures so everyone has to walk smart.

The wind was tremendous, wear a coat or hoodie if you go to the Cliffs, brrrrr.

We soon struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler from the US regarding the Irish cows and sheep were grazing on a very green field in front of the guest shop at the Cliffs.

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A couple of hours flies by pretty quick when the views are beautiful, time to hop back on the bus.

We made a couple smaller spots, each was very gorgeous compared to our usual daily views but things don’t look quite as pretty after taking in the breathtaking Cliffs of Mohr.

We got back into Limerick around dusk. Having had a nice time at Locke Bar we went back for a nice Irish dinner.

This time it wasn’t raining so we sat at one of the many wooden tables near the river, quay, the cool breeze was welcome vs the freezing gusts out on the Cliffs.

We returned to the hotel after some apps, I was still full from the heavy stew lunch.

I popped into the hotel’s bar and struck up a conversation with the bartender.

He was Dublin born but studied at uni, aka University of Limerick and never left. He was due to marry soon, starting an online venture too as I recall.

When I told him I was on an extended holiday he nodded, ‘Smart, most Americans don’t leave the States!’

He soon set out 2 glasses and offered me a taste of Irish hospitality, aka Jameson! I suggested giving the Caskmates variety a try. This whiskey is aged in barrels that had stout beer in them so it has a hit of beer malts.

Sláinte!

Every Irishman is a storyteller and if you’re an Irish bartender it means you are great at collecting and swaping stories about the island and UK.

Talk to your bartender about cool places to eat and drink. They’ll know the best spots off the tourist trail

A very excellent day !

Beer: Tom Crean  Irish Lager

Song: the Cranberries   Zombie

Dream trip Day 117 Bus to Limerick, Irish dancers, submerged boat

Another early morning in order to hit the bus station before noon. 1 last Irish fry up courtesy of Pat and Mary.

We chatted with them a bit, thanking them for the great walking tip. They are quite lucky that walk is a daily option.

A short walk down the road and we were at the mall, bus depot. It makes total sense though, with shopping near by, it gives you something to do while you wait for your bus or pop into a shop if you forgot to pack something.

Standing outside with several people, all who smoked, it suddenly began to rain steady.

Everybody in Ireland had an umbrella within reach and the bus driver had a large golf style umbrellas to aid with retrieving people’s luggage.

We lined up under an awning and the driver sold us tickets. There weren’t many people going to Limerick today so we had nice window seats.

It doesn’t rain hard, but it rains steady for hours, never letting up.

Luckily, it had stopped raining about halfway through our trip. Ireland sure was pretty and green due to all this rain!

We were dropped off at a small bus, train depot in Limerick and walked to our hotel for the next few days across town.

We began in a busy area full of shops, restaurants and other activities, but soon we were in what I felt was not a great area at night.

I couldn’t place why I felt dirty, target like, but I did walking through a number of small multilevel brick houses.

Luckily our stroll through this part of town was over quickly as we crossed a lovely bridge to get to our hotel.

Rounding a corner we spied a boat in the water but it wasn’t sea worthy any longer.

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The boat’s placement blocking a narrow channel seemed deliberate. We noted its progress each day as it would rain, raising the water level.

We got a heap of info upon check in, from a dinner spot to purchasing a bus tour to the Cliffs of Mohr in the morning.

The Locke Bar where we were recommended was a bit crowded, but we were able to snag a table with a view of the dance floor.

As soon as you enter, to the left was a lightly colored wooden floor where a small band was set up playing Irish tunes.

The band was soon joined by Irish dancers, a couple of lads and lassies, terms they most definitely use here.

Irish dance is one of the most awkward dance style to behold in person. No arm movements it’s all feet tapping, crossing, hopping, a very airborne dance.

As I learned, Irish dancing isn’t ‘river dance,’ that is the name of 1 guy’s dance show but he is for sure the man who introduced this unique dance style to the world.

We got beers and watched the show, each song had a different dance including solo jigs or couples. A fury of feets flying!

Our night was settled, let’s take it easy. We had great seats, they had beer, food and live music so we stayed.

Fish and chips this time, I presume due to the proximity of the River Shannon I felt it to be fresh.

We raised our pints and said cheers, to which a couple next to us joined in, ‘Sláinte!’ they responded, to your health. 

I soon related my tales from my friend from Limerick to my mom. I couldn’t believe I actually made it to his hometown.

We headed back to our hotel after dinner and a couple of pints. It was spritzing rain which was annoying but not enough to soak us.

I had spied a pub across the river from our hotel so I split off from my mom.

Wow I’d stumbled into an extremely local pub. Usually at least 1-2 people will nod or say hello, but not here.

I even had to change places at the pub to get served. Maybe it was my long-ish beard?

It seemed there was a wedding reception or some other formal style event so perhaps it was just a family affair evening.

I had a couple pints, watching the footy highlights on the telly. At least it didn’t rain on my walk home.

Tomorrow the Cliffs of Mohr!

Beer: Stag Bán

Song:  Black 47  Fire of Freedom