Little Citizens of the World


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Springtime in Ireland

Since arriving back from Scotland, we’ve been so busy I can hardly make time for anything.  The weather has been just incredible, so there have been lots of walks, park days, farmers markets and sleepovers.  The thing is, I have so much to do and I’m putting it off so I can enjoy the sunshine.  Well, it will all get done in time.  For now, I’m going to enjoy this beautiful weather as much as I can!

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Fitzgerald Park

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The River Lee

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Bonnie Scotland

We’ve spent a short time in Scotland recently and, with the exception of the car breaking down on the motorway, it was lovely!  We took the ferry across from Belfast to Cairnryan.  It was very quiet onboard with hardly any cars.  About 2 hours later, we headed up the coast to our house in Ardrossan.  Our rental was gorgeous with massive 10ft by 15ft windows that looked out over the beach and distant Scottish islands.

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Ferry freight deck

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One of the seating areas and shop enterance

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The view from the sitting room on a rather blustery day

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Just gorgeous

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Saltcoats village

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While we were in Glasgow, we heard one of Sky and Sparrows teammates from their Irish dance class on Cape Cod had made it to Worlds and was in Glasgow that moment!  So I got in touch with the teacher and 3 days later, we were on the 6:30am train to Glasgow to cheer on the girls friend at the 2018 Irish Dance World Championships!

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Buchanan Street from the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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Buchanan Street at 7am is beautifully silent

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Of course we had to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe!

We had an amazing day out in the city and, although the girls friend didn’t make call backs, she had a fantastic time and it was an amazing experience for everyone.

Back in Ardrossan, we spent most of our remaining time at the beach and driving around locally , checking out Ardrossan Castle, which was practically in our back garden, and walking down to the docks to watch the ferry come in from the Isle of Aran.

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Ardrossan Castle ruins

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Reflections of sunset on Saltcoats

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Goodnight Scotland

And so back to Cork we head, just in time for gorgeous spring weather.  We enjoyed our time in Scotland, and I hope to return there and see more of the country with the kids than just North Ayrshire.  Next time, I’d love to take them to Edinburgh and up into the Highlands a bit.  The viaduct from the Harry Potter films is pretty high on the list as well!


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Funderland!

My dear friend stopped by this afternoon and mentioned that there’s always a fair that comes to town at Easter called, Funderland.  She asked is we would be interested in going.  I thought, “sure we would, lets plan for it!”  “Ok, get your shoes.” she replied!

So I wasn’t prepared for that, in fact I had just finished coating my hair in coconut oil and clipping it on top of my head.  She offered to wait while I took a shower, but the kids looked so excited to run out the door that I just said, lets go!

It was about a 45 minute walk from the city to the fair grounds.  When we got close, you could see the biggest rides up over the buildings.  The kids were over the moon thrilled.  I was excited because I felt bad that they would miss the Ag Fair on the Vineyard this summer, which is tradition.  So here we were, at the gates of this beautiful fair and I was so relieved.

Everyone going on rides requires a bracelet and because it’s fairly pricey, I just got the kids bracelets.  The front of the fair grounds was mainly younger kids rides, but we’re not adventurous when it comes to rides, so carousels, Dumbo rides and those little cars that go round and round in a circle are just fine with us.

As we made our way through, there were big slides, obstacle courses, bumper cars and a medium sized roller coaster that was not too big but big enough to be awesome!  They also had fairground hot dogs, which I’m just going to believe were 100% organic beef, and we finished off the night with Hook A Duck for €3 a pop.

We spent about 4.5 hours there before walking back home.  It was an amazing, surprise day and we all had a fantastic time.

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This ride left one of mine in tears.  Bad call on my part.

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Some of the rides were wild!

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…And some were just our speed.

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A silly fun house

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This swing can be seem from over a mile away.

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Cobh, Ireland

Cobh is pronounced ‘cove’.  It was once known as Queenstown, in honour of Queen Victoria.  It was the last place many Irish left from when they came to America in the 1800’s.  It was also the last stop Titanic made when it set off on it’s maiden voyage.  2,206 people were onboard Titanic when she left the docks.  1,517 would never reach New York.

I was up at 4am to see if I could get my first sight of Ireland.  We were just coming up to the mouth of the harbour and you could clearly see the light at Roches Point.

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When I whispered to the kids that I could see Ireland, they actually jumped up out of bed and ran out onto the balcony with me, they were so excited!  I was so glad they were as excited as me, but also surprised as I figured I’d be trying to drag them out of bed in time to meet customs at the designated 6:40am time slot!

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The village of Cobh coming into view.

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By the time we were through customs, had some breakfast and got our luggage lined up in our room, it was about time that our friends were to be meeting us at the train station, literally right in front of the ship.  We went up onto the top decks and saw the 8:24 train just pulling in, and we could actually see the blue coat of the girls little friend, Sula (Soo-la), sitting in the window!

When they got to the gate, we shouted down to them, and they looked around but didn’t look up at the ship. So we counted to three and altogether yelled “SULA!!” and they saw us!  We all waved like crazy, then hurried down to get our bags and disembark.  It took 15 minutes for someone to come get our luggage, which felt like forever.  The girls were so bulked up with their fleece and down coats, etc that they waited on the balcony.  Finally, we were off the ship and it was hugs all around.  Ahhh, welcome home!

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Come aboard, we’re expecting you…

Whenever I think of Princess Cruises, I think of being a little kid and watching The Love Boat at my grandmothers on weekends.  Actually, if you have MeTV, you can still watch it!  I will tell you though, that the cabins, although very pleasant, are not nearly as big as they look on the show (of course).

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We were upgraded to a balcony!  So nice to have fresh air!

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There are lots of pools on the Caribbean Princess but, unfortunately, they are open to the elements.  Whereas on Holland America, they can close the roof so you can swim even surrounded by the iciest of icebergs, on Princess, if it’s cold outside, you don’t swim!  So although we left from Fort Lauderdale and the weather was divine, it didn’t stay that way for long.  Alas, the pools remained empty for the entirety of the cruise.

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The food was lovely, though not as many choices by far as Holland and far less organised.  They have what they call the Marketplace which is the buffet area.  The problem with it is, everyone is walking back and forth to the different stations and swerving around each other.  This did not make it easy, trying to walk around with children who are trying to balance their plates while you try to balance yours and serve them at the same time.  I would like to have seen more choices even though the food was good.  I ended up eating alfredo pasta most evenings, the kids lived from the pizza bar and were tiring of it by the end.  Anyone with kids knows that when they tire of pizza, there’s a problem.  So again, choices were fairly limiting.  I also overheard one passenger say, while walking through the Marketplace, that she hoped the vegetarian option would be more than just salad again.

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The Lido

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Even before the dinner buffet was open, the girls knew they wouldn’t like anything and had gone to the pizza bar.

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The Marketplace before it opened and became packed with people going back and forth between the more than 15 stations.

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Desserts were beautifully presented but all tasted a bit the same after a while.

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There were some lovely presentations.

 

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The pizza place is at the back of the ship.  You have to leave the Marketplace seating area and walk outside past two swimming pool areas and pretty much freeze to death to get to it.

There is a kids club area on the ship and they had just been redone.  I only have one photo of the 9-12 area because they don’t allow photography when kids are there, for obvious reasons.  Not that I would ever photograph other peoples kids and blog them!

There were only a few kids on board, so they were able to be more flexible and choose what they wanted to do.  This would be harder if there were 20 kids running around and would have required a more structured environment.  For the most part, they did a craft or two everyday and then chose whether they wanted to play Minecraft or Wii or just play with the toys that were available like duplos, etc.  Sky and Sparrow LOVED playing Just Dance and pretty much spent the whole of their free time dancing.

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They really enjoyed their time in “The Lodge” and I’m glad it was so much fun for them.  Really, it doesn’t matter how bad things are on any ship, you can deal with it.  But if the kids club is going badly,  it ruins everyone’s good time.

So I would have to say, I would give Princess 3.5 stars.  It wasn’t bad by any means, but the food choices were scarce, the rooms, although neat, could have been cleaner (hair in the shower!  No thank you.), not having a covered pool was a bummer and a minuscule library were a bit of a let down.

Did I show you the library?  No?  Here is the entirely of the library, with no labels as to what category the books belong in and many shelves practically empty.  One whole unit here is games and another full unit is travel guides, this didn’t leave much.

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On a more positive note, because it was a very nice cruise in the end, they had a balloon drop the night before Easter and the kids LOVED it.  It took some coaxing to get them onto the dance floor so they could be under it, but once there, they were thrilled.  It really was something to see.

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The Atrium is decks 5, 6 and 7

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Sky and Sparrow waiting for the big drop.  …And trying not to get roped into the conga line.

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Even though the balloon drop didn’t happen until close to 11pm, the Easter Bunny still managed to hop onboard and deliver some goodies, using the kids pirate hats as baskets!

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Tie-dye Irish dance socks, Minecraft, plushies, Smarties and a few other goodies!

As we inched closer to Ireland, we also spotted a pod of dolphins, which were far to quick for me to catch on camera, and what we think must be the fins of basking sharks.  We saw them several times slowly rise out of the water, trail through for a few seconds, then dip back below the surface.  Sometimes, another smaller fin would surface behind, like a tail fin, so that’s my guess. I don’t know what else they could be.

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This is so zoomed in, it’s ridiculous!  Remember, we are up at least 18 floors from the surface.

 

 

 


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“You can go to Heaven if you want, I’d rather stay in Bermuda.” ~Mark Twain

Our first, and only, stop on this cruise is to Bermuda.  We’ve never been there before, so we were very excited about it.  I had gone on Google Maps to find out what the terminal looked like, and it was a gorgeous spot for photos of the girls.  I had it all planned out, the walking trail around the town and then back on the ship for late lunch.  The night before we arrived, I got the program for the next day in our door slot and realised I’d been googling Grand Bahama!!

Even though I was a bit disappointed by the difference in port (the port on Grand Bahama is picture perfect), it still was very lovely.  It was a little overcast and there was a tiny breeze, but it was perfect for pants and a tshirt.  I had, however, planned on getting good Christmas pictures while there so, unfortunately, every photo I took has the girls faces front and center.  Really, there wasn’t that much to photograph unless we had taken the bus out of the port area and into the town, so you’re not missing much.

We didn’t do any shore excursions, we just spent a few hours walking around the town.  The port area is pretty small and the Clocktower Mall is really the only place to visit.  We went in there and bought a few little souvenirs, then walked back to the ship along a different path.  It was a nice day out and a cute little port town.

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Map on the wharf

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Walking back to the ship past the Clocktower Mall.  You can still see the line in Sparrows hair from when I dyed it blue, when they went to see DanTDM last month!

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Beautiful Pandanus Palm

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This is the only place I was able to get a photo of the whole ship!

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Ready to sail away.  Goodbye Bermuda!


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Florida, here we come!

Amtrak from Boston to Fort Lauderdale is an overnight trip.  My brother drove us up to Boston where we stayed in a hotel for the night, so we could be at South Station for the 9:30am train.

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South Station Boston

As you can see in the below image, I’ve packed light again.  The entire left side is ours, and on the right, everything from the orange zuca bag to the seats is ours as well.  Three small suitcases, two attached shoulder bags, two zuca bags, two scooters, one guitar, one violin and an arm full of winter coats.

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I never travel without this book!

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A girl and her guitar

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A little Plants vs Zombies for the trip.

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Coming into NYC

We changed trains in NYC and got into our sleeper car.  Lucky for us it was a family sized car and not the little tiny, bunk space only, cabin that I was expecting.  We never would have fit!

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There’s a super tiny bathroom across from the scooters.  And to my left is a small sink that shoots water everywhere whenever you try to use it.

I realised the next morning that in my rush to get all of our bags off the train at Penn Station, that I had somehow left my brand new, long down coat on the train.  Of course I called Boston, NYC and DC (where that train terminated) and no one had any idea where it had gone, even though I knew exactly where I was sitting.

Food on the train is not very nice, but it’s not any worse than a fast food restaurant.  Actually, that’s pretty gross.  But it’s edible, and it’s only for a short while.  The best thing about the train trip was Sky could eat in the dining car and not get motion sick.  In the past, we’ve had to keep the curtains closed and order our food in our cabin, but this time we not only got to eat in the dining car, but she had fun pushing the automatic doors with her foot as we went through several cars to get to our meals.

I had them change into shorts and tshirts as it got later in the day.  We arrived in Fort Lauderdale about an hour late, around 7pm.  It was still plenty bright and boy, was it hot.

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We got a cab to our hotel, the Hilton Marina.  It was NOT worth the crazy amount of money I paid!  The pool was gorgeous, the room was your basic Holiday Inn style (I like Holiday Inn), although the cracked sink and mildewed tub were not up to Holiday Inn’s cleanliness.  I’ve never stayed at a Hilton, I chose it because it was across from the cruise terminal, and I thought we’d be able to walk (no way, too hot).  I should have listened to the reviews on trip advisor.  I actually had the room that had photos posted about the sink and tub!!  So really, don’t waste your money on the Hilton, stay somewhere else and spend the money shopping!

Oh, there was also a massive cockroach in our bathroom.  The kids were terrified to take a shower.  Later that night, I got up to go to the bathroom and almost stepped on it as it ran across the bedroom floor and under the bedside table.  I know cockroaches are a Florida thing, but gross!!!

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The beautiful pool was it’s only saving grace.