High Road

We were having a bit of trouble in our Wyoming cabin, because, contrary to its listing, it did not have a kitchen.

While Alan argued with the on-hold music, I looked for some hiking options.

I ran across a passage claiming America’s most scenic road was in our vicinity.

We decided to bag our second night in Wyoming and to head to our cabin in Montana. And after a bit of discussion we agreed to route the drive along the scenic road, even though it would add two hours to the trip.

As it would turn out, it was more like four.

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, which leads to the targeted passage, was breathtaking. We made several stops, including Dead Indian Pass, where historical placards tell of Chief Joseph leading his Nez Perce tribe as they fled the murdering cavalry.

We finally reached the Beartooth All American Road, which lived up to its billing, with snowy mountaintops, Alpine lakes and Meadows, and sheer cliffs.

At over 10,900 feet where it crosses through Beartooth Gap, it is the highest non-park road in the continental U.S.

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Blue Lake, Blue Knee

Blue Lake

We went on a challenging hike at Brainard Lake, just outside of Ward, Colorado.

Alan negotiating a tricky stream crossing.

We took the Mitchell Lake trailhead. The hike to Mitchell Lake was pretty easy. The backstretch of the trail goes to Blue Lake, and the route is steep and rocky.

Marmot looking for a handout.

Blue Lake is a beautiful setting, a just reward for a challenging hike.

On the way back, I tripped over a root and crashed knee-first into a rock. I thought I was going to be wolf fodder, but surprisingly I was able to walk out.

If Blue Lake we’re in Kansas it would be the first wonder.

Eighth Wonder

Traveling through Western Kansas with a few minutes to waste, the Internets suggested there’s more to the state than flat and wheat.

There are some unlikely sedimentary rock formations, among them Castle Rock, one of the Eight Natural Wonders of Kansas.

Although the drive was only about a dozen miles, the road was not paved. But we were able to go 55 mph through cow and oil country.

Castle Rock itself wasn’t overly impressive, but there is an interesting weathered sandstone cliff formation overlooking the castle that was worth the visit.

There was a colony of cliff swallows flitting about, flying on and out of meetings holes in the sides of the cliffs. And Alan caught a glimpse of a sage thrasher.

Dublin Down

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times – from Two Tales of a City, by Joyce James.

The first impression of Dublin was not encouraging. Our hotel seemed over-priced. The room needed a facelift. The neighborhood would never be described as charming. The pub in our hotel had stopped serving food fifteen minutes earlier.

On our first foray into the city, we got totally turned around, and when we finally stumbled into the Temple Bar region the crowd was do dense we thought it was the Hajj – well, perhaps not, given the role of alcohol in the revelry.

Neither of these places is in Temple Bar.

Things will be better in the morning. There’s a nice breakfast restaurant just down the street . . .

. . . which didn’t open until nine because it was a bank holiday. And we had a bike tour to catch at ten.

We grabbed a pastry and tried to find the bike tour. It was hidden in a parking deck just around the next corner, or the next, or the one we just passed, but we did arrive in time to join our tour.

Every day looks better from the seat of a bicycle (well, every day save one). Our tour was led by Kate, who was great.

The upbeat day continued into the evening, when we joined a literary pub crawl led by Culm Quilligan, a dead ringer for Kelly Bunning. Culm and his protege began the tour by acting a scene from “Waiting for Godot,” in fact the very scene Steve Schaffer and I read to our inattentive senior English class. Had anyone been paying attention, we undoubtedly would have gotten in trouble for crossing the boundary of indecency.

We hadn’t planned on going to the National Gallery, but, well, there’s a Vermeer.

There’s also a portrait of Henry Shefflin, the Michael Jordan of Hurling.

Waiting for Godot

One of the sidelights of the tour was a trivia quiz. We were given most of the questions in advance, with clues as to where to look in the pubs for answers.

The quiz itself was a free-for-all, with all the tourers shouting answers and the protege giving points to first responders.

Now after the first pub stop, where I found the picture of the bearded Nobel prize winner (G.B. Shaw), I realized it was too much of a distraction to focus on the trivia contest and determined not to worry about it.

Then came the contest, and halfway through I’d not scored a point. I got a point for the Shaw question in a tie, another point for something that must have been about Beckett. On the last question, “What Beatle withdrew from writing O Calcutta? everybody screamed out John Lennon, but the moderator did not give a credit. Then I realized they’d all jumped the gun, answering before he’d finished delivering the question, so I said “John,” and got the point. Putting me in a tie.

The tie breaker was “What Nobel winner also won a Tony?” to which I essentially rattled off all four before coming up with Shaw first. So I won a t-shirt.

Brainiac

On our final full day in Dublin, and in the British Isles, we went to the national archaeology museum, where we saw several bodies of ancient people who were discovered well-preserved in Irish bogs.

Very old little gold boat.

We wrapped things up with an amazing meal at Da Mimmo restaurant, possibly the best Italian eatery in Dublin, if not all Ireland, located near the Five lamps.

Dublin football field

My Fair City

On a clear day, London is a photographer’s dream. Today was one such day.

The return trip. No champagne before noon.

We started with a boat ride down the Thames to Westminster Abbey.

We were serenaded by the bells of Westminster Abbey.

After our tour, we headed for Westminster Notabbey, e.g. Parliament. However, admission to the building was not free since Parliament was not in session, so we passed in protest.

After brief visits to Hyde Park and Harrod’s, we ducked into the National Gallery to take in a couple of Vermeers.

Hyde Park Rose garden.

Did I mention we walked by Buckingham Palace, where we heard the booming salute of twenty-one cannon, possibly in celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

It turned out the National Gallery is a really nice art museum, and we spent a little time there. For example, the guide said there was a Rembrandt in room 22(?), whereas in fact it was a room full of Rembrandts.

Double your pleasure. Vermeer and Vermeer flanking Rebecca.

Van Gogh draws a crowd no matter where.

A visit to the Tate Modern completed our day.

Self portraiture. Which one is Andy Warhol?

This work of Salvadore Dali raises a lot of questions about fishing while driving.

More photos.

Only Rembrandt with the subject on a horse.

On the other hand … Rembrandt self portraits are a dime a dozen.

Me too!

City Hall.

St. Paul’s.

Below is a shot of that building with the bar and restaurant at the top. (Also prominent in above shot.)

Well, that’s just cuckoo

Clock room

We found a room in the British Museum dedicated to clocks. At four o’clock they started going off, chiming, ringing, tinkling, and even cuckoing. Rebecca’s grandfather in Europe repaired watches.

We also added the Rosetta Stone to our haul of ancient wonders.

We spent the morning in the Tower of London. The Beefeater tour guide we followed put on an informative and entertaining show.

He had a big voice.

Our final adventure of the day was attending the theater.

We went to Her Majesty’s Theatre where we saw Phantom of the Opera. Lavish would be putting it mildly.

Just outside our flat is a really big, curvy building with restaurants and bars at the top (35-38th floors). It’s free, and it offers incredible views. The drinks at not cheap.

Busy City

Driving day, took in one of the older sites over here.

Drove right into the heart of London

Dropped car across from St. Paul’s. Took a wild taxi ride to our flat.

Tower of London

Went for a walk, got swept up in a wave of humanity walking at rush hour. There are a lot more people in London than in Bath.