UK Adventures

JTR London 308

Find out what happened on the Redford’s vacation to the UK!
Hello friends! Thanks for taking a moment to read my latest blog. If you’ve been keeping up with me, you know that 2012 has already been quite an adventure. With the wedding and honeymoon behind us, Tracey and I enjoyed a busy summer. When not working at the Q, I’ve been working hard on my golf game and just recently scored my best round ever... 10 over par. My goal next summer is to card an even par round! Tracey has been spending a lot of time with horses: she loves to ride English saddle and has also been volunteering at a barn that provides equestrian therapy.

In September, we had an opportunity to spend some time in the United Kingdom. My dad was working in London and had a flat in Notting Hill for a few months and Tracey’s family wanted to return to the land of their ancestors, Ireland. Here’s the play by play:

After a red eye into London, Tracey and I found our way to Notting Hill and were greeted at the flat by a smiling face: my mother! She had decided to join my dad in London and while he worked, she had been enjoying the culture and history of the city. That night we were able to spend a few hours at the iconic Abbey Road Studios!

My dad was orchestrating for the newest Bond film and we came along to watch. It was so fun to see him conduct a huge orchestra and bring his arrangement of “Skyfall” to life! As neat as that was, the thing that really excited me was setting foot in Studio 2, the space where The Beatles made their magic. I actually got to play the piano that they recorded with and sing into one of the vocal mics that they used! I got chills being in that space... a true fan and musician’s dream.

So things started on a high and just kept getting better. Tracey and I spent the next few days touring the city on foot, soaking in all of the different neighborhoods. The Olympics had just finished, but the Paralympics were just beginning. Trafalgar Square was all dressed up for the event, but that didn’t stop us from popping into the National Gallery and enjoying the amazing collection. We walked by Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace... and still had time for ice cream! (Tracey conceived this funny shot after noticing that a big plastic ice cream cone was outside of every shop that sold fresh ice cream)

A few other highlights of our first days in London: we shared amazing meals of varying cuisine every night, saw a spectacular stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and visited the Olympic Village.

A few days into our trip, we hopped a plane over to Dublin, Ireland to meet up with Tracey’s immediate family. We would be spending the next week touring the country together, but that day we enjoyed the Emerald Isle Classic... and as a USC grad, of course I rooted against Notre Dame. The stadium was beautiful and the atmosphere was great!

Our next stop was Waterford. The city is charming, though we only spent a short time walking around it, because the real highlight was our tour of the Waterford Crystal facility. Not only were we treated to a private tour, but I actually got to try my hand at crystal carving! Tom, a master craftsman with over 40 years experience, found me a spare tumbler and gave me a few tips before letting me go wild... I didn’t do too bad!

A very special thanks to Philip Gaffney and the team at Waterford for treating us so well! After spending a few hours (and euros) at Waterford, we headed toward our next destination: Kinsale, a small fishing village outside of Cork. On the way there, we stopped at the famous Jameson Distillery in Middleton. Irish whiskey is one of my favorite things and seeing the history and process was fascinating!

We arrived in Kinsale and walked through the town in search of dinner and some live music. After enjoying some Irish “craic”, we had a lovely stay at a B&B called The Old Presbytery. The next day took us through Blarney and the wait to kiss the stone was 2 hours we hadn’t budgeted for, so we passed that up on our way to Killarney. Part of the joy in Ireland is the journey, and I’ve got hundreds of photos to prove how beautiful it is.

When we arrived in Killarney, we checked into another charming B&B and then walked through the city. I scaled the walls and Tracey couldn’t pass up staging this Shakespearean picture at the ruins of a local fort:

Another night filled with great live music and a lovely meal left us with nice memories from Killarney. One of the most delightful things about Ireland is the people. In this country more than any other I’ve travelled to, the locals are genuinely welcoming and willing to share their cities and culture with the tourists.

The next day we drove the famous Dingle Peninsula. We were deciding between Dingle and the Ring of Kerry, but with as much driving as we had already done, I think the shorter drive proved to be the smarter choice. There are more spectacular vistas than one camera can contain around every bend.

We even took a ferry across one of the small peninsulas near Tralee. Notice anything different about Tracey? (She’s wearing her Ken Paves clip in bangs!)

After staying in a different city three nights in a row, we finally arrived at the destination we had all been looking forward to. Doonbeg is a beautiful castle resort on the western shores of Ireland with a world class golf course, gorgeous sprawling grounds and top notch amenities. We relaxed the first night in anticipation of the big day we had planned: horseback riding on the beach, 18 holes of golf, and an anniversary dinner for my in-laws. I know, I know... tough life, right? As great as it all was, it did take a lot of energy!

Horseback riding was amazing... until I got thrown off and crashed onto the hard sand! Everything was going smoothly for the first 30 minutes; Tracey and I were galloping along the shore like we were in a romantic movie. My horse loved the water and splashed through it with long strides. Tracey’s preferred the softer sand and tended to stray away from the water. Toward the end of our ride, the horses knew they were almost home, so they picked up their pace. They got too close, crossed near the shore and that’s when Tracey’s horse kicked back and my horse bucked. As you can imagine, I flew off the back and came crashing down. Shaken, but not stirred, I rounded up my horse and hopped right back on!

Just 2 hours later, I’d be teeing off on a championship golf course, so I spent an hour in the steam room and sauna to shake off the pain. I geared up and met my father-in-law and brother-in-law at the first tee. It was a dream to play golf in one of the homes of the game. Though it was incredibly challenging, I shot pretty well! Check out the signature hole #14:

It was a short 110 yard shot to the flag, but the landing area was about 10 yards wide. And you can’t really see it well in the photo, but the view was beautiful... right over the Atlantic. I put it 12 feet from the hole, and then promptly missed the birdie putt. Ah, golf! We made it to the 18th hole just before sunset and our beautiful wives were there waiting for us.

We celebrated Tracey’s parent’s 39th anniversary that night with an amazing meal and left Doonbeg the next morning happy and relaxed. If you have the chance, consider visiting this one of a kind place as I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Our plan was to return to Dublin for two nights because we hadn’t stayed there the first night we arrived in Ireland. Before heading back east across the country, however, we had to stop at the iconic Cliffs of Moher. “Wow”, is all I can say... the views leave you breathless. The majesty of nature is both humbling and empowering. I gave a lot of thought to my place in life and my role in this world and came away with a refreshed mind and a renewed feeling of thankfulness.

Back in Dublin, we checked in to a hotel in the busy Temple Bar area and found some great places to enjoy the Irish culture. Other highlights included being given a tour of the Lord Mayor’s house by the Lord Mayor himself, seeing Riverdance, and visiting the Guinness Brewery. I popped into a number of the museums as Tracey shopped on Grafton St... we all took some time to do the things we wanted to do. Traveling with my new family was a great way to build relationships and begin our history together.

After a wonderful week in Ireland, Tracey and I headed back to London and her family flew back to the States. With a few days left on our vacation, we were able to do some of the things we hadn’t been able to in our fist fews days in London. High on Tracey’s list was seeing the Tower of London... so we took a tour with a beefeater and walked the grounds for hours.

We went from the former home of the queen to her current estate: Buckingham Palace. Luckily, we were in the city while the Royals were vacationing, which meant we were able to tour the palace. We bought the “Royal Day Out” passes and saw the magnificent state rooms in the palace, the Royal Mews, and the Queen’s Gallery, which was featuring Da Vinci’s anatomical drawings. It was quite a day!

We celebrated my parents’ anniversary with an incredible meal high above the city with views of the palace gardens (the ones that we’re standing in in the picture above). My parents were married one year and one day after Tracey’s parents! We also saw “Taming of the Shrew” at the Old Globe Theatre; there’s nothing like seeing Shakespeare in the house that Shakespeare built! (not literally, of course, but the new space is in the same style). On our last day, we climbed what felt like a million tiny stairs to get to the top of the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was worth every step!

In the two weeks we were away, we saw countless historical spots and had the chance to really experience the culture. My favorite thing about traveling is just diving in and embracing whatever the day brings. This trip wasn’t about relaxation, like our honeymoon was, so we had the chance to learn new things about each other every day.

Thanks for joining me on a virtual tour of my summer trip!