I’m not sure why it works out this way, but it seems that our travel plans are always feast or famine. This fall was definitely a feast. Here’s how we slept in 14 beds in 36 days:
1. Glasgow, Scotland — We kicked off our two-week dream vacation at the Glasgow Thistle Hotel. The first day was a little hazy with jet lag, but we found our way to the West Coast Harley-Davidson Dealership, walked along Sauchiehall Street and enjoyed fish ‘n chips and a pint at Molly Malones. Okay, two pints. The Thistle is very nice and an easy walk from Buchanan Street, which is easily one of the best shopping venues I’ve ever seen.
2. Nairn, Scotland — Heading to the Scottish Highlands via Loch Lomond and Loch Ness along the same route James Bond drove in Skyfall, what was already an incredible day got even better when we arrived at the Newton Hotel. Once frequented by Charlie Chaplin and his family, this 56-suite hotel was originally built as a family home in the 17th century and is set in 21 acres of parkland and gardens. Our suite was very large, comfortable and beautifully appointed with views of the back gardens. It’s just a short drive to the historic Culloden Battlefield, which was our first stop the next morning.
3. Edinburgh, Scotland — There is so much to see here that we probably would have slept on a bench if necessary, but we were fortunate enough to stay at the Marriott Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club instead. Originally a Baronial manor, it is surrounded by 1,000 acres of parkland, yet is just seven miles from the Edinburgh city centre. We aren’t golfers, but we did relax in the pool and whirlpool after spending the day walking the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.
4. Dublin, Ireland — After crossing the Irish Sea and a stop in Belfast to tour the Titanic Museum, we checked in to the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel in Dublin. This mid-1700s estate is an Irish National Monument, with much of the house’s original décor and architectural features still intact. It’s just a short walk to Gleesons Pub, unless you get lost…but that’s a story for a different blog. It was a luxurious, beautiful spot to rest up after a busy day touring the Guinness Storehouse, exploring the city centre and Temple Bar areas and taking in a dinner canal cruise.
5. Killarney, Ireland — This turned out to be one of our favorite places on the trip. Killarney is just the right size, with a population of about 11,000, and sits on the edge of the Killarney National Forest. We stayed at the Killarney Avenue Hotel, which is just a couple of blocks from the town centre unless, again, you get lost after enjoying the libations at a local pub. The hotel is beautiful inside and out, with intricate woodwork and stained glass, and is a good hub for enjoying the Ring of Kerry and the surrounding areas.
6. Bunratty, Ireland — Following an afternoon at Cliffs of Moher, our next stop was Bunratty Castle and the aptly named Bunratty Castle Hotel. Even without its proximity to its namesake, this is an elegant property worthy of a visit. The Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, a quaint village and, most importantly, Durty Nelly’s Pub, are all within walking distance. It’s also just five miles from the Shannon Airport.
7. Cork, Ireland — The impetus for choosing Ireland and Scotland as our destinations for this trip was our daughter’s decision to spend a semester abroad at University College Cork (UCC). So, after an entertaining morning watching my husband learn to drive on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road while shifting gears with his left hand, we arrived at the luxurious River Lee Hotel. Located midway between UCC and the city centre, it was the perfect spot from which to explore the campus, shopping, restaurants, the English Market and St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. It’s a short drive from Cork to Blarney and Kinsale, so we enjoyed a couple of day trips as well.
8. Shannon, Ireland — The Park Inn by Radisson is located in the airport parking lot, which makes it easy to check in your rental car the night before an early flight and then just walked to and from the hotel. Luckily we were only there for a few hours, because that’s the only positive thing I can say about this hotel. Yikes.
9. Glenwood Springs, Colorado — Home, sweet home! It was pretty darn nice to wake up in my own bed, even though by this point I’d stopped even wondering where I was when I woke up in the morning.
10. Colby, Kansas — Six days later, we headed out again to attend my husband’s 30th high school reunion in Kansas City, Missouri. Not quite ready to spend more time in airports or airplanes, we hit the road. We spent the night at the lovely Hampton Inn in Colby, Kansas, the midpoint in this I-70 jaunt, to break up the drive. The highlight of the drive: discovering Freddy’s Steakburgers. This is now a required stop along the way! I checked and there are several locations on the Front Range. You should find one and go there. I mean it. And bring me a vanilla milkshake, steakburger and fries.
11. Grain Valley, Missouri — Our 36 hours in Kansas City included two reunion events, lunch with my mother-in-law at Ponak’s Mexican restaurant, breakfast at Lamar’s Donuts, a stop at the grocery store to stock up on our favorite salsas and bar-be-cue sauces, quality time with my sister-in-law, niece and nephew, and two comfortable nights at their house in Grain Valley. Whew!
12. Laramie, Wyoming — Just 48 hours after returning home, we headed to Laramie, Wyoming, to drop our son off at Wyotech. Most of our time was spent at the orientation and moving him into his apartment, with a night at the Hampton Inn Laramie. We almost always have good experiences at Hampton Inns, and this was no exception. Wyotech is a mecca for gearheads, and I was barely able to drag my husband back home with me when we left. My son loves it and is thriving there.
13. Beaver Creek, Colorado — Thanks to an early October snowstorm and incredible off-season deals, we spent a glorious night at the swanky Lodge and Spa at Cordillera before flying to St. Louis for my nephew’s wedding. This allowed us to avoid driving through Glenwood Canyon in the snow at 4 a.m. to catch an early flight out of the Eagle Airport. We were welcomed in the lobby with a roaring fire in a huge stone fireplace. Our room also had a wood-burning fireplace, although you have to call for firewood, plus a very comfortable king-sized bed, big fluffy towels and bathrobes, and fabulous toiletries. This is high on the list of places to return to when we have more time to enjoy it.
14. St. Charles, Missouri — The final stop in this month o’ beds was at my sister’s house in St. Charles for her son’s wedding. I had visited a couple of years ago for her daughter’s graduation, but since then they have redecorated most of the house and everything looked amazing. I am so thankful that we were able to be there and to visit with all of my immediate family and my sister’s in-laws, who are really my extended family since I’ve known them since I was 12. They capped a perfect weekend with a dual birthday party for me and Scott.
That’s the story of how we slept in 14 beds in 36 days. I’m working on posts with more details about some of our stops in Ireland and Scotland, so stay tuned for more Tales From the Empty Nest.
© 2014 Mandy Gauldin