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Thread: "Left to Live" - A 23-Day Motorcycle Adventure Around UK and Ireland...

  1. #1
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    "Left to Live" - A 23-Day Motorcycle Adventure Around UK and Ireland...



    Background story:
    We are two Americans, in our mid-forties, empty-nesters, who are currently living and working in Germany. We both love to travel and when an opportunity came up last year to move here, we jumped on it.

    Like most of you all, we still work. Although Europeans do have more vacation time, it is still difficult to break free and ride motorcycles for months on end. Someday, we will do this - I promise you! Until then, breaking free for three weeks will have to do.

    We've planned this trip for some time. In fact, it has been in the light stages of planning since almost immediately after we arrived in Germany from last years Iceland trip (CHECK IT OUT HERE). Trying to fit all of the countries of the UK and Ireland into a 23-day vacation, including scheduling most of the ferries, did take some planning, but in the end it was worth it.

    The "Left to Live" name of our journey was picked for two reasons:
    1. The most obvious... This will be our first time we've ever riding on the LEFT side of the roadways. "Stay LEFT if you want TO LIVE!" We even went so far as to create a windscreen mounted, vinyl sticker to remind us of this.
    2. We've only got a finite amount of time in this life. We have both decided that we would like to have memories instead of dreams and we both dream of exploring this tiny, blue dot we call Earth.

    ...So here goes! Here is a small preview from our 23-day motorcycle adventure around UK and Ireland:


    Our planned route. The red and orange colors signify a day of travel. Normally, I don't like planning this much, but fitting so many miles (er, I mean km, no wait, I mean miles) into a three week trip requires planning.


    The Union Jack


    Castles


    Cities


    Sculptures


    Ocean views


    Architecture


    UNESCO World Heritage sites


    It took some planning but we even got to experience riding on the world famous TT Mountain Course on the Isle of Man.


    Our route kept us close to the oceans and bays which offered limitless views to some of the best scenery in Europe.


    We rode most days until right before sunset.


    Places I never imaged I would travel as a kid.


    Unique sculptures and artwork along the way.


    Some incredible scenery to ride through! Even in England, with it's population density of 400 people per square km, we found wide open roads.


    Landmarks. We tried to see as many landmarks or sites as we reasonably could while still riding 200-300 km per day.


    There are nearly 23 million sheep in the UK. You're going to see some sheep on this trip.


    Many churches and grave-sights all over UK and Ireland. This was taken at a cemetery near the TT Grandstand at Isle of Man.


    Good eats! Both Chantil and I love Fish-n-Chips! It turns out we are in the right country for this!!


    Our two mules - Both BMW G650GSs. The red one is mine and is named "Apache", and the white one is named (White) "Chocolate"


    I printed stickers of the flags of countries (or crown dependencies) that we planned to visit. After we arrive, I place them on my mule's windscreen.


    Just a "few" of the waypoints that we would like to see on our adventure...
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  2. #2
    Hey Chromehead ! bobs98's Avatar
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    Nice!

    Looking forward to another excellent adventure and read!
    Bob Smith
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  3. #3
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Day 1 - Friday, Aug 24th...


    Our route for the day of 300km. Leaving Germany 🇩🇪, through Belgium 🇧🇪, and ending the evening in France 🇫🇷. Three countries and three languages of German, Dutch, and French.

    We spent the last few weeks making sure all the maintenance was done on each of our mules. I estimate that my mule would need a rear tire and rear brake pads after this trip, however everything else was “good to go”! We had originally planned to leave on Saturday, but there was nothing keeping us from getting an early start on our vacation. We left our home in Germany at 2 PM and made decent time along the E42 and A25 through Belgium and France.


    A brightly colored water tower between Villeneuve d'Ascq and Chéreng, France provided a short diversion from freeway riding.


    This fish is reminding us not to waste water!


    Near the tower was this unique apartment hotel with modern features...


    ..including colored glass windows that complement the green vines clinging to the side of the concrete and brick walls.


    Just down the road was this abandoned parking garage.


    Without the unique organic metalwork, it would be just another parking garage.


    There was a section of the A25 that was backed up. We weren’t sure if lane-splitting was legal in France, so we waited until we saw a group of four riders on BMW 1200GSs doing it. Monkey see – monkey do! We followed them for some of the most relaxing lane splitting I’ve ever done. The French drivers did a great job of leaving wide open spaces between lanes. Yeah France!


    Once we reached Dunkirk, I saw this unique colored apartment high-rise and decided to stop and take some pictures.


    The place looked a bit run down but the multi-colored exterior sure made it interesting.


    We rode through Dunkirk and stopped for a little while at the old part of town...


    ...where we snapped some photos of the Beffroi de Dunkerque...


    ...and the Saint-Éloi Church across the street.


    Chantil programming the GPSr which will guide us to Camping Zuydcoote Beach, our campsite for the evening.


    Rain😞. After setting up camp, the rain rolled in. It rained all night but fortunately let up in the early morning.

    Tomorrow will be much more exciting as we learn about the “Miracle of Dunkirk” at the Operation Dynamo Museum and then make our into England via the Channel Tunnel, or what Europeans have nicknamed the “Chunnel”…
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  4. #4
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobs98 View Post
    Looking forward to another excellent adventure and read!
    Hoping it can live up to the expectations. Thanks for posting!
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    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug...


    Our route for today of 283 km - Dunkirk, France 🇫🇷 to Beachy Head, UK 🇬🇧 via the EuroTunnel.


    The rain stopped sometime in the early morning, so we awoke to a dry tent - It’s shaping up to be a great day already!

    Funny story from last night. As we pulled into camp last night, an excited couple approached us and started talking to us in German. Being in France, we wondered why?? Turns out they assumed we were German because of our German plates on our German BMW motorcycles. It’s funny what people assume sometimes. Nice couple though.

    Back to today... Since we had some time to kill before the museum opened we decided to go for a walk and try to find the pier used during the evacuation of the English and French forces during the 1940 operation often called the Miracle of Dunkirk.


    It was early, and the breeze was cool, so we enjoyed much of the beach to ourselves.


    A man-made ocean break wall made with large concrete cubes the size of cars.


    I miss the ocean. Living in Germany keeps us from visiting it as much as we wish we could.


    A uniquely colored beachfront apartment building.




    Flag of Dunkirk, the European Union, France, and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region.




    The boardwalk along the beach featured various styles of homes including many condominiums.

    The jetty used for the Dunkirk evacuation was further than we had time for, so we decided to make our way back to the campground and pack up the mules for the next day of riding.


    #motorcyclelife

    On our way to the Dunkirk jetty we came across this...


    ...large metal sculpture that stood near the Dunkirk break-wall.


    At the base of the sculpture was this signature. How cool is signing your name with a welder!?


    The Dunkirk Lighthouse


    The mules parked at the foot of the jetty used during the evacuation.


    A display marking the historic occasion.


    Some happy faces of the soldiers who were evacuated.


    The narrow jetty sticks out for quite a while. We walked the length of it until reaching a gated fence at the end.


    A gull enjoyed the strong breeze.


    These sailors were also enjoying the strong breeze. I miss sailing; especially close-hauled sailing where the sheets are tights, and the boat is healed over.


    End of the road. Time to turn back and make our way to the museum which opens at 10AM...
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  6. #6
    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug - Museum Dunkerque 1940 Operation Dynamo:

    We enjoyed our time at the museum established to remember the miraculous evacuation of 338,226 soldiers over a 10-day period starting 26 May 1940.


    A simple sign on a brick headquarters building marks the entrance to the museum.


    Some of the money bills used during WW2.


    A poster reminding people not to talk about military operations in public.


    A military-issued gas mask.


    The heavy radios used the 1940s.


    Pictures of war. I’m grateful for these photographers so that we have imagery to remember the horrors of war.


    Many soldiers waded through the surf and cold waters to reach the rescue ships.


    Many of the allied ships (over 38 percent) were bombed or mined during the evacuation.


    Although the number of private vessels used during the operation was difficult to estimate it is believed that nearly 850 boats were used. Many of these boats were strictly civilian crewed.


    Rolls Royce Merlin engine from a British Spitfire recovered from the ocean. 3,500 sorties were conducted by the RAF in order to support the 10-day evacuation.


    A model of a Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka as it begins it dive attack on allied shipping at Dunkirk.


    A BMW logo hasn’t changed much since the 1940s.


    I can’t imagine the relief many felt once they were on a friendly ship heading back to England.


    A flag used to mark beach mines or unexploded ordinances.


    A pair of German Maschinengewehr 34 machine guns configured for anti-air operations.


    We spent about an hour in the museum and left with a newfound respect for those who fought so desperately for their lives.


    In just a short time we’ll be on our way to the UK!...
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  7. #7
    got, got, got no time... rguy's Avatar
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    Looking forward to another great trip! Thanks for taking us along.
    Neal - '16 R1200GS / '81 R65
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  8. #8
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    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug 2018 - A walk around the Lieu d’Art et Action Contemporaine.

    Just behind the Operation Dynamo museum is a modern art museum with a relaxing walking trail and many outdoor sculptures.


    A recent sculpture nicknamed “The Hourglass”, is an analogy of the passing of time by the sand to the soldiers trapped at Dunkerque, who slowly trickled away as they were evacuated, and as an hourglass can be turned over and the sand brought back, reflects the re-arrival of the allied forces after June 1944.






    The sun was breaking through the clouds promising to make for a great day.




    The sculptures are beautiful, but nature provides its own version of “modern art”.


    Draw your own conclusions... Is this art or just a pile of old anchors?


    The large fish sculpture can been seen for quite a ways due to its bright colors.


    Just near the museum of some exciting architectural homes. These apartments are styled with unique brown and grey tile work.


    These homes have a very unique “pencil-head” design.


    Since we had some free time we took the backroads through some canals and enjoyed the views and the great weather.

    Onward to the Chunnel and into the ENGLAND!! Are you ready?...
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  9. #9
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    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug 2018 - The Channel Tunnel:

    At 31.3 miles long and 380 feet below sea level, the Channel Tunnel moves you between France and England in just 35 minutes.


    Directions to the Chunnel are clear to understand and are written in both French and English.


    Ride up to the kiosk where you enter your confirmation number...


    ... and get your ticket. We are in the “X” lane for boarding. After getting our tickets we rode to the customs window where we presented our passport, and then were on our way.


    Here you can see the Eurotunnel Le Shuttles that will whisk us away to a new land. It’s basically a train that is fitted with rear loading ramps to load vehicles and freight. You drive in and then drive off. Easy peasy.


    Almost there! Waiting for all the cars so the motorcycles can be loaded at the “back of the bus”.


    Riding through the train cars to our car along with three other motorcyclists.


    That’s it. We placed our bikes on their stands and stood around for the 35-minute trip. We talked to the other motorcyclists and put reminder stickers on our windscreen to ensure we stay “Left to Live” while in the UK and Ireland. Oh, there is also a time change of minus one hour.


    The ride off was even easier! We road through about twenty train cars before exiting on a ramp and into the next three weeks of riding on the left side of the road.


    The one way exit road quickly joins a highway and you’re on your way – on the left. No complicated switching network that converts right side driver to left sided ones – easy! At least until we get to our first roundabout or intersection...


    In my excitement of being in a new country, I didn’t set the GPS waypoint to the Cliffs of Dover and we ended up getting on the wrong side of the highway. A bit of a diversion, and a tunnel later, and we were on our way to the English town of Dover.


    In Dover we passed by a famous mural done by street artist Banksy showing a metalworker chipping away at a star on the EU flag. Brexit is definitely a subject of controversy here in the UK.


    Brexit is especially controversial for Northern Ireland and Scotland who voted a majority to stay with the European Union. Time will tell as the UK is scheduled to leave at 11pm UK time on Friday, 29 March 2019.
    Last edited by travisgill; 11-18-2018 at 11:35 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug 2018 - The White Cliffs of Dover:

    Not sure why this has been an iconic place for me to visit... Perhaps a childhood memory of a film? Perhaps a military documentary? Anyhow, presenting the White Cliffs of Dover…


    We managed to find a quite section to launch the drone to get a nice picture of the cliffs from the ocean.


    It seems this side of the channel was a bit greener than France. Perhaps is rains here more?


    There is a walkway that runs down the cliff face to a ship wreckage on the beach. It would have been fun, but we were on a schedule of sorts.


    Kinder WHITE chocolate to celebrate our WHITE Dover experience. Get it?


    The port of Dover is a busy area with ferry traffic running around the clock.


    The famous cliffs and famous Chantil!


    We’re glad we stopped to enjoy this landmark; especially on this beautifully sunny day.
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  11. #11
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    Day 2 - Saturday, 25 Aug - Riding from Dover to Beachy Head:

    Our first day of riding on the left side proved to be less difficult than I thought. There were a few mistakes but nothing dangerous. The narrow roads, green farmland, and picturesque homes were quintessential England.


    Sheep grazing near the ruins of a roman stone building.


    A narrow stone archway on an obscure road surrounded by farmland and sheep.


    The narrow roads had no shoulder but there were pull-off sections every so often.


    The curves can be tight but there are plenty of warnings beforehand.


    Our favorite section of the road today.




    Beachy Head! We made it.


    Definitely a beautiful place worth staying awhile.


    A memorial to those many WW2 aviators who looked down on Beachy Head as their last and final view of England.




    Sundial showing some bearing and ranges to places around the globe.


    All in all, a great day of riding and exploring!

    Since it was getting dark and we still haven’t found a place to stay we called a nearby campsite in Fairfield Farms near Eastbourne. It was a bit challenging to find in the dark, but we found it and quickly set up out tent and sleeping bags. We were ready for sleep…


    …but not before getting a bite to eat.


    Just a short walk from camp was a takeout place called Swan Traditional where we ended the day eating this fried deliciousness!

    More adventure tomorrow as we make our way towards Stonehenge…
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    Day 3 - Sunday, 26 Aug:


    Our route for today - Beachy Head to Woodhenge. Only 240km today since rain delayed us for a couple hours in the afternoon.


    A bit of drizzle this morning so we’ll be in our rain gear today.


    Back to Beachy Head where we enjoyed the early morning with these beautiful cliffs and lighthouse. We launched the drone, but it was really windy making video footage difficult to shoot; we did capture this image however.


    Beachy Head Lighthouse looking great in red and white!


    The road leaving Beachy Head offered another chance to fly the drone where I captured some shots of Chantil riding through some beautiful countryside.


    A nice sweeping turn makes for great fun on a motorcycle.


    This section of the A259 ended up being the best riding we did all day.


    Life is good!


    Rain kinda’ sucks when you’re on a motorcycle.

    We experienced more than six hours of rain during this afternoon’s ride. The rain became so heavy that it started flooding the roadway so we decided to wait it out at a McDonald’s in Petersfield, England. We ordered some food and then ended up talking to a nice group of people who were riding scooters through the area.


    …At least there is no extra charge for ketchup here!

    Side rant: You may be asking “Why does this dude take pictures of ketchup?” I’ll explain… Having a ketchup dispenser that provides a limitless supply of FREE ketchup is a luxury. In the USA it’s expected but in Western Europe you must pay for condiments like ketchup and mayonnaise. Most Eastern Europe restaurants also don’t do free refills of soda. It’s the little things in life like free condiments and refills that get noticed. Thanks UK!


    The rain let up enough that we could continue our ride. This section of A272 through South Downs National Park was pretty but unfortunately wet.


    The rain cleared up just before we reached Salisbury. As we entered town, we came across these tiniest of streets. Just look at how narrow this is! Yes, traffic goes both ways!!


    Check out these pubs and restaurants. Quintessential England!


    One of the window displays had these folded origami birds.


    Colorful umbrellas decorate a narrow pedestrian street.


    A famous red telephone box. We’ve seen quite a few of these but many have been converted to other things like trade-a-book bookstores.


    English rooftops!


    We enjoyed our walk through the streets even though many of the shops were closed.


    Salisbury Cathedral is striking. It would have been nice to go inside but it was closed by the time we arrived into town.


    Some of the incredible detail in the cathedral’s exterior.


    One of the entrance doors. Wonder how many people have walked through this door since it was built in the 1250s.




    A detail of the cathedral’s water runoff system with unique statues.

    We walked back to the mules and continued our ride to Stonehenge before they close at 8 PM…

    Unfortunately, the gates closed about two hours before published closing, so we just missed seeing Stonehenge! Oh well, we’ll find a hotel, dry off a bit, get a good night’s sleep, and be ready for a new day tomorrow.


    But not before one final stop for the evening to Woodhenge - Stonehenge’s smaller brother. Read about it here: www.english-heritage.org.uk

    Tomorrow we’ll check out Stonehenge in the morning and continue our way north through Wales to Cardiff…
    Last edited by travisgill; 11-04-2018 at 01:31 PM.
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  13. #13
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    Day 4 - Monday, 27 Aug:


    Map of our Day 4: 260 km from Stonehenge to camping at Brecon Beacons National Park.

    Stonehenge opened at 9AM and we wanted to be there early to avoid the crowds. The weather wasn’t very cheerio, with a bit of a drizzle. By the time we arrived at the Stonehenge site, the clouds lifted a little revealing a ray of sun.


    After paying the price of £19.5 ($20.10) per person you can then tour a small museum and outside area describing how the henge was build and what life may have been like for those during the Bronze Age.


    A model showing what the completed circle may have looked like.


    Artifacts and bones from those buried within the henge area.


    A display where you can test your strength pulling the stones. Good luck pulling! Somehow I think there was A LOT of labor that went into building Stonehenge; unless you believe the alien theory.


    A 3-D map with landmarks shows that there is more to see than just Stonehenge. If we had more time, and the weather was better, I think I would have enjoyed seeing the other sites.


    After a short bus ride, you reach Stonehenge! Here is a pano image showing the site in relation to all of the other tourists like us. Bring a zoom camera if you want to get close-up photos; the standard tour doesn’t include getting really close to the site.




    Stonehenge, you’re not as big as I imagined. Seriously! I thought you would be more impressive.


    Tip: Download the Stonehenge Guide app and bring headphone for your smartphone so you don’t look like me holding a cheap cell-phone guide to your ear the whole time.


    The back side of the site is actually the most visually appealing because it’s the only side that has the standing horizontal slabs.


    I definitely had a different idea of what Stonehenge would be like. I imagined it would larger and more remote. Instead I found it to be overly touristy but still worth the experience. In the end, I’m still glad I went because it’s one of those “been there, done that” kinda places. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I was at this event: Paul Oakenfold DJs at Stonehenge!


    This lovely Royal Enfield parked next to our mules at Stonehenge.


    The company is making a comeback to US markets.

    After Stonehenge we made our way north and enjoyed some of the most beautiful narrow roads and countrysides.


    Speed cameras! Every road in the UK and Ireland seemed to have these cameras. I tried to find how many are installed and found this site: www.SpeedCamerasUK.com. Their database list over 3,500 cameras in the UK which doesn’t include Northern Ireland. That’s a lot of cameras! We’ll be very fortunate if we didn’t get a speeding ticket mailed to us during our 23 days of riding.

    More of Day 4 to follow…
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    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Day 4 - Monday, 27 Aug (continued)…

    Along our trip, we accidentally stumbled across this great restaurant when Chantil noticed some long canal boats floating near a stone bridge.


    Honeystreet Mill Café was a perfect place to enjoy brunch.


    Just some of the finely decorated artwork around the restaurant.


    Chantil enjoying a hot coco.


    We shared this heavenly tasting carrot cake. Well done Honeystreet Mill Café!


    Alton Barnes White Horse is approximately 180 feet high, 160 feet long, and was cut in 1812.


    Launched the drone to grab a closer look. During winter solstices locals outline the geoglyph with candles and even hosted a lantern parade in honor of the horse’s 200th birthday.


    Before landing, I also captured this image of England’s south-east countryside. A beautiful day!


    Passing a horse-drawn carriage of http://www.whitehorsegypsycaravans.co.uk/]gypsy travelers[/url]. I prefer my carriage to have more than 1 horsepower. Our 47hp seems about right!


    These stones are part of the largest megalithic stone circle in the world, located near Avebury in Wiltshire. Unlike Stonehenge, people can get right up to them and enjoy them. I wonder what the main reason was for placing them? Still a mystery but there are some theories.


    Although we plan to see a few things along our route each day, it is often the unplanned things that capture our attention...


    ...like these wooden benches designed after iconic British WWII fighter and bomber planes of the Royal Air Force (RAF).


    Or a tiled mural just tucked away behind an obscure wall…


    …that remembers a history of WWII that this region provided to the war effort.


    It wasn’t too long, and we were passing through toll booths and crossing into new country. Great news, motorcycles don’t have to pay to toll!


    Crossing the Severn River via the, apply named, Severn Bridge. Welcome to Wales!

    We continued onward to Puzzle Wood where we enjoyed a hike through some JR Tolkien inspired forest. This is a unique and enchanting place, located in the beautiful and historic Forest of Dean.


    The grounds have colorful and interesting flowers.


    I lucked out with this picture. The fly just stayed there posing for the picture!


    Gotta’ wonder how these sunflowers grow without sun ��. I kid, of course there is sun in the UK.


    A tiny donkey posed for the camera at the kids petting zoo.


    Taking time to smell (or at least capture) the flowers.


    Into the enchanted forest! A forest of adventure and fairy tales!


    We explore the outer trails which included about a mile of meandering pathways, with its fantastic tree and rock formations.


    There are 14-acres of ancient woodland. It has an atmosphere unlike any other woods we’ve visited.


    In an enchanted forest? Then why not eat one of my favorite candies - HARIBO Smurfs?!


    The forest is pretty large considering that much of the surrounding area is flat farmland.

    We ended up spending almost two hours at Puzzle Wood. It was definitely worth the visit and admission of £7.00 ($9.00) per person.
    Last edited by travisgill; 11-05-2018 at 03:21 AM.
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    Registered User travisgill's Avatar
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    Day 4 - Monday, 27 Aug (continued)…

    It was now time to make our way south to Cardiff. We arrived after 6PM so we didn’t get to go inside the castle but we did get to see a giant T-Rex!


    The side entrance into Cardiff Castle. Locked up tight and I didn't bring my army to storm the entrance.


    It seems Welsh is also spoken here. In Wales, go figure?


    Ducks swim in the moat around the castle.


    A GIANT T-REX!! Not something I imagined we would be seeing today! The maintenance crew was taking down what looked like a food court event with life-sized statues of dinosaurs. RAAWWWRRR!!


    The octagon gothic-inspired tower stands 75-feet high and was completed in 1439.


    The Cardiff Castle 150-foot high clock tower was built in 1868.




    Many statues guard castle entrances. One of the most popular is the noble lion…


    …but what about an AARDVARK?...


    …or this bear full of personality?


    Perhaps it’s his energetic orange eyes.


    Can you guess what country we’re in? Any flag with a red dragon on it has got to be a wicked cool country!

    After some pizza in Cardiff, we continued north where we finished the day at Grawen Caravan & Camping Park.

    Tomorrow we’ll continue north through Wales and then catch the ferry to Ireland. At least that was our initial plan. Murphy has a different idea in store…
    Last edited by travisgill; 11-20-2018 at 03:34 PM.
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