A Travellerspoint blog

Europe Travel as a Political Act: Don't let Fear stop you!

Being a Courageous Wanderer takes determination and willpower with a large dose of Knowledge

For a large part of my adult life, I was AFRAID to travel to Europe. Considering all of the world destinations I have traveled to in the last few years, this may be surprising to those who know me. Travel overseas seemed filled with obvious and hidden dangers to me for a very long time. Terrorism, foreign languages, foreign currency, crime, disease and Foreign People most of all. I was afraid to travel "over there" because I would be vulnerable and outside my comfort zone of the United States and the few Caribbean islands that I had visited so far.

As the years went by I could not escape the feeling that I was missing something in my life experiences. I love to travel and I felt that by being afraid to travel overseas I was reading a book that only had one page and I was reading the same page over and over. Finally, as I approached a Milestone Birthday, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and take my first trip to Europe. That trip was a 12 day wonder of new sights, sounds, tastes, people, history, culture and amazing beauty that has stamped my soul forever. I have traveled all over the world since then and I have not looked back! I have turned my love of TRAVEL into a business now, where I invite others to step outside of their comfort zones and experience what life has to offer Courageous Wanderers like me.





Not too long ago I spent a Saturday afternoon watching travel expert Rick Steves lecture about travel during his Travel Festival event in Seattle, Washington. Of all the talks about travel that day, one of his lectures stood out to me more than others. "Travel as a Political Act" is a lecture everyone who dreams of traveling the world should see and hear. If fear or some other "reason" is holding you back from your travel dreams, watch this video by Rick Steves for real talk about why you should step out of your comfort zone and fulfill your dreams of travel. Once you watch, please comment and let me know what you think!

See video at this link below:

Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves

Posted by Gerriv 09:12 Archived in USA Tagged travel europe rick steves Comments (0)

9 Days in South Africa Part I

A Once in a Lifetime Trip to South Africa brings Joy and Enlightenment

It was 10:30pm local time and our group of 21 passengers from the USA, had finally reached our Cape Town, South Africa hotel. Walking into the Commodore Hotel after 18 hours of flying from Washington, DC felt great. We were met in the lobby by a member of the hotel staff who greeted us with a tray of fresh fruit juice. Our room keys were ready and we were soon settled into our comfortable sleeping rooms. It was at this point, as I relaxed on the bed, that I finally gave some thought to all that it had taken to get there. Almost 1 year earlier, in November of 2010, I had booked this trip for a group of colleagues and friends from the state of Alabama in the USA. Over the following year, through months of planning, airline schedule changes, cancellations and other headaches, we had finally arrived in South Africa. Feeling tired but slightly euphoric, I could hardly sleep for the joy I felt in knowing that we had all arrived safe and sound, ready to begin what was expected to be a wonderful 9 day exploration of a country half a world away. I could not wait to get started!

Our first day in Cape Town started early. After a great buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we all met in the lobby of the Commodore Hotel to meet Charl, our tour guide for the next 3 days. Around 9:00am we set off on our full day Cape Peninsula tour. Right away as we rode along on our spacious tour bus through the streets of Cape Town, I was amazed at the beauty of this lovely city on the west coast of South Africa. Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. Cape Town is famous for its harbor as well as the well-known landmarks of Table Mountain and Cape Point.


Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East. In 1652, Cape Town was the first permanent European settlement established in South Africa. Cape Town quickly became the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa.

Today it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa. As of 2007 the city has an estimated population of 3.5 million. Cape Town's land area of 948 square miles is larger than other South African cities. The discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West in 1867, and the Witwatersrand Gold Rush in 1886, prompted a flood of immigrants to South Africa. Conflicts between the Boer republics in the interior and the British colonial government resulted in the Second Boer War of 1899–1902. Britain won the war and in 1910, established the Union of South Africa, which unified the Cape Colony with the two defeated Boer Republics and the British colony of Natal. Cape Town became the legislative capital of the Union, and later of the Republic of South Africa.

Years later, in the 1948 national elections, the National Party won on a platform of apartheid (racial segregation). This led to the Group Areas Act, which classified all areas according to race. The formerly multi-racial suburbs of Cape Town were either purged of unlawful residents or demolished. Under apartheid, the Cape was considered a "Colored labor preference area", to the exclusion of "Bantus", or "blacks".

Cape Town was home to many leaders of the anti-apartheid movement. On Robben Island, a former penitentiary island 6 miles from the city, many famous political prisoners were held for years, the most famous being Nelson Mandela. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town; thereafter, he was at Pollsmoor Prison, nearby on the mainland. During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela's reputation grew as an anti-apartheid leader. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He was revered for consistently refusing to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.


Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 11, 1990. Mr. Mandela made his first public speech in decades on 11 February 1990 from the Cape Town City Hall hours after being released from prison, and the first democratic election was held four years later, on 27 April 1994. Nelson Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Since that time, Cape Town and much of South Africa has struggled with problems of huge differences in lifestyle, education, crime and other issues, however, there are also many great examples of civic pride and optimism to balance against these problems. Looking around the city, I could see people of all skin colors appearing to working together to make Cape Town a better place to live for everyone. Discovering the city's true diversity and spirit was part of what I hoped to find from my visit here.

With the beauty, culture and history of Cape Town in mind, I made my first video of the trip at our first stop on the Cape Peninsula Tour.

Cape Town South Africa Video...

From this point, we began a wonderful day of sights and sounds and food that I will remember always!

Our group from Alabama gets ready to board our bus in Cape Town for the Cape Peninsula Tour.

Coming Up, our group visits Hout Bay, an Ostrich Farm and The Cape of Good Hope on our Cape Peninsula Tour in South Africa.

To be continued......

Gerrilyn (Gerri) Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Visit the "Travels With Gerri" You Tube Channel for more Travel Videos!

Posted by Gerriv 12:16 Comments (0)

A Trek Thru the British Isles XI- Paris, France

The Wonders of the Louvre Museum and Lunch at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The final port of call on our 12 Day British Isles Cruise was Le Havre, France the port near Paris, France. Mom and I had been looking forward to this stop, even though it was our final port of the cruise before returning to Southampton, England for the return flight home. Mom had made a very specific request to me to choose a tour that included a visit to the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower. Lucky for us, there was an excursion that included both!

We left the ship on a sunny, cool morning for the almost 2 hour journey into the city of Paris. Our tour group was in a great mood and our tour guide for the day was a nice woman with a friendly manner about her. The only thing I found disconcerting was that she had an extremely thick French accent that made it hard to understand her "English" as she lectured on French history on the drive to Paris. I had studied French in school, so I fared better listening to her than most of the passengers on our tour. I was just happy to be back in France (we visited the French Riviera on another cruise). After a short rest stop along the way, I could finally see the outskirts of Paris from the tour bus window.

View of Paris from our Tour Bus

The first stop of the day was the Louvre Museum. It was about 10:00am local time and already there was quite a crowd inside the museum. The Musée du Louvre is one of the world's largest museums and the most visited art museum in the world. It is located on the Right Bank of the Seine river. About 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 652,300 square feet. The museum is housed in the Palais (Palace) du Louvre which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of antique sculpture. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation's masterpieces.

The Louvre Museum

Our tour group headed inside and our tour guide lead us to several galleries to view some specific pieces of art that she wanted us to see. Our time at the museum was short because we were having lunch at the Eiffel Tower, so the guide released us to tour on our own before returning to our tour bus. To say that the Louvre is a massive structure is an understatement. The galleries went on forever and there were lots of stairs too. It was hard to decide what to try to see next and the crowds were growing by the minute. Mom and I decided to make our way to the Mona Lisa gallery, only to find standing room only space at the back of the huge room. We never got to see this famous painting up close because very rude gawkers refused to move away from in front of the painting that was protected by bullet proof glass. It was a major disappointment for Mom because it was the piece of art she most wanted to see. So after taking some distant photos over people's heads, we headed back down to the museum lobby.

A Gallery of art at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France

The huge crowd at the Louvre Museum trying to see the Mona Lisa

The Famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo Di Vinci

The museum lobby was also crowded, but we managed to find a restroom and a seat near the gift shop to wait for the rest of our group. Mom waited outside the gift shop while I purchased some postcards and a book with photos of famous works of art and the history of the Louvre. At the appointed time, we boarded our tour bus and headed off to the Eiffel Tower for lunch at the restaurant located near the top of the famous Paris landmark.

The Eiffel Tower in the distance

The Eiffel Tower is a beautiful structure. Having only seen the fake one in Las Vegas, the real thing was very impressive. The Eiffel Tower is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. Built in 1889, it has become one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair. The tower has three levels for visitors. Tickets can be purchased to ascend, by stairs or very small elevator, to the first and second levels. The third and highest level is accessible only by elevator. The first and second levels both feature restaurants.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

Exiting our tour bus on the plaza under the tower, we were greeted with more crowds. It was still a beautiful and now very warm day. Our tour guide lead us to the ticket booth for the tower and we were taken in small groups up to one of the restaurants for lunch. We were very hungry by the time we were seated. Thankfully we were waited on a served a delicious meal with wine after a short wait. Our group talked to each other and looked at the gorgeous scenery out of the wall of windows. It was a wonderful way to relax. Before leaving the tower, I took some photos of the awesome view.

View from a table at the Eiffel Tower restaurant in Paris, France

Paris from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The River Seine from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

It took a while for all of us to reach the ground floor of the Eiffel Tower after lunch with the crowds and the small elevators. I found a seat for Mom after we finally reached the ground and walked over to a small gift shop for some souvenirs. Our tour bus rolled up and we were once again off to complete our tour of Paris. We drove through the streets and neighborhoods while our tour guide described the views. Then it was back down the highway to Le Harve to board the Crown Princess for sail away. It had been much too short a visit. I made a promise to myself to do a land tour in the future that definitely included another visit to the Louvre (at a much less crowded time of year) and some French wine tastings.

The day after our visit to France we were back in Southampton. We disembarked the ship midmorning and got transportation to Heathrow airport for the flight home. It was another warm sunny day, and I felt so blessed to have enjoyed such a amazing trip with my Mom. It was an adventure that I will remember forever. Now, it's on to the next travel destination on my very long list. I hope you have a travel list of your own!

Au revoir! The End!

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services
Follow me on Facebook under The Travel Concierge

Posted by Gerriv 08:53 Comments (2)

A Trek Thru the British Isles X-Edinburgh, Scotland

I visit a Medieval Castle and take a Tour of Scotlands more Famous Landmarks

South Queensferry, Scotland is a tender port. One of the last ports we would visit on our 12 day British Isles cruise, it was also the gateway to Edinburgh, Scotland. From the ship anchored some distance from shore, passengers of the Crown Princess had to board small boats that would ferry us to the dock where we would board tour buses or make our way to Edinburgh on our own. After enjoying an early breakfast the morning of our visit, I left the ship for a tour called "Edinburgh Castle and City Drive". I chose to do a tour by myself that day because Mom decided not to take a bouncing and bobbing tender boat to the dock. It was a misty and somewhat rainy morning as I climbed aboard the tender boat and I was glad I had a hat and small umbrella with me to shield me from the elements while exploring the sights in Edinburgh on the tour.

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. Lying between the Highlands and the Border Hills, Edinburgh, Scotland is a large, fascinating city noted for its beautiful skyline, its impressive architecture and its beautiful parks. Edinburgh is the site of the International Festival, one of the premier European cultural events for over half a century. Among those who have called the city home are the writers, Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide) Robert Burns, James Boswell, and Sir Walter Scott, as well as philosophers, Adam Smith and David Hume. Edinburgh is also the seat of the Scottish Parliament. The Old Town and New Town districts of Edinburgh were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Views of the Edinburgh, Scotland skyline

Arriving in Edinburgh the weather had improved a great deal which was fortuitous as our first stop of the day was the historic Edinburgh Castle. The first thing I noticed about Edinburgh is that the Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline in an unbelievable way. Sitting high above the city streets, it is an imposing and impressive structure. Over 1000 years of history sit on top of the famous Edinburgh Castle rock. The Castle is also the home of the Royal Crown Jewels of Scotland. Looking up at the castle from the city streets below, you see why this historic site has over a million visitors a year.

Edinburgh Castle

Leaving the bus just outside of the Edinburgh Castle wall, we were instructed by our tour guide that we would have some time on our own to explore the castle and to return to the bus at a certain time to continue our city tour. I was happy to have the time to explore on my own as there was so much to see and so much history to take in.

Edinburgh Castle visitors prepare to enter the Castle grounds
Edinburgh Castle chapel
Edinburgh Castle building

Castle Rock as it is called, has been a military base and royal residence for centuries. Edinburgh Castle was built during the 12th century by David I, son of Saint Margaret of Scotland. Conflicts between the English and Scottish monarchies almost always centered on Edinburgh Castle. It was said that "He who held the castle held rule over the city of Edinburgh and, therefore, over all of Scotland". As a consequence, the castle was constantly under siege over the centuries.

The site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Mary, Queen of Scots was one of the more famous residents. From the 15th century, the castle's residential role declined, and by the 17th century its principal role was as a military base with a large garrison. As one of the most important fortresses in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts, from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century, up to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Most of the castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland, and it is Scotland's most-visited paid tourist attraction.

Mary, Queen of Scots exhibit at Edinburgh Castle

I took my time walking around the enormous castle grounds before making my way inside the castles Royal Palace to see the Honors of Scotland or the Crown Jewels of Scotland which are displayed in the Crown Room of the Palace. The room was built specially for the Honors in 1617, as part of King James VI ‘homecoming’ to Scotland, to celebrate his Golden Jubilee as king of Scots. The crown, scepter and sword date from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The scepter was presented to James IV in 1494, probably by Pope Alexander VI, and the Sword in 1508 by Pope Julius.

The Honors of Scotland

By the time I made my way out of the Royal Palace after standing in a long line to see the Crown Jewels, it was almost time to meet back at the tour bus. I had just enough time to buy some souvenirs and make the long trek down a steep hill to where the tour bus was parked. I had quite a work out walking around the castle grounds due to several steep hills and a lot of steps. I was more than ready to sit down and ride for a while. From the castle the tour took us down the Royal Mile to the Holyrood Palace (residence of the Scottish Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II when she is in town) and around the city to take in more sites.

The City of Edinburgh grows outwards from the Castle and the first houses were built on the area in front of it and is now called the Lawnmarket. From there, the houses, shops and restaurants continue down High Street and The Cannongate towards the Royal Palace of Holyrood House. These streets form a single street known as The Royal Mile. The Royal Mile got its name over the centuries as Scottish and English kings and queens have travelled back and forth between the Palace of Holyrood House and Edinburgh Castle, thus the name The Royal Mile.

Gates to Holyrood Palace

View of the city from Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock

Building along the Royal Mile

Home of author Robert Louis Stevenson in Edinburgh, Scotland

By the time we arrived back at the ship after a long day of touring Edinburgh, I was more than tired. I was also exhilarated from being immersed is so much history too. One day was simply not enough to see Edinburgh, so I added it to my growing list of places I had to visit again one day.

Next up, Mom and I visit the amazing city of Paris, France and our fabulous 12 day British Isles cruise comes to an end.

To Be Continued.....

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 09:37 Comments (0)

A Trek Thru the British Isles IX- Loch Ness, Scotland

Driving through the Scottish Highlands and a tour of Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness

We arrived at the port of Invergordon and Inverness, Scotland after a relaxing and much needed day of rest at sea on the Crown Princess cruise ship. Inverness is known as the capital of the Highlands and is the primary city and shopping centre of the area. It has a great location on the River Ness at the northern end of the Great Glen. In summer it is packed with visitors intent on monster hunting at nearby Loch Ness, but it is also an interesting place to visit.

I left the Crown Princess alone early to board a tour bus for the 1 hour trip to Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness. Mom decided to spend the day on the ship after nonstop touring of back to back ports on our 12 day British Isles Cruise. Our tour guide for the day looked like something right out of a movie, dressed in a kilt with long hair and a scruffy beard. I knew right away this was going to be a fun day!

Tour Guide Ian and our tour bus driver

We left the port and headed out into the lush Scottish Highlands and the outskirts of the city of Inverness. It was an overcast and somewhat windy day but the scenery was still beautiful. During the drive our tour guide Ian told us about the history of the area and I enjoyed listening to his thick Scottish accent. Ian had a wicked sense of humor and had us laughing all day long. Robert the Bruce of Bravehart fame was a particular topic of interest to Ian. Having never seen the movie, I listened with rapt attention to the story of this Scottish King.

King Robert I, known as Robert the Bruce, was King of Scots from March 25, 1306, until his death in 1329. He became one of Scotland's greatest kings, as well as one of the most famous warriors of his generation, eventually leading Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence against the Kingdom of England. He claimed the Scottish throne as a fourth great-grandson of David I of Scotland, and saw the recognition of Scotland as an independent nation during his reign. Today in Scotland, Bruce is remembered as a national hero. His body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, while his heart is buried in Melrose Abbey. His embalmed heart was to be taken on crusade by his lieutenant and friend Sir James Douglas to the Holy Land, but only reached Moorish Granada, where it acted as a talisman for the Scottish contingent at the Battle of Teba. Mel Gibson ignited new interest in Robert the Bruce when he portrayed him in the movie Bravehart several years ago. According to Ian, the movie was not entirely accurate, but it did show King Robert as the heroic man that he was.

Scottish Highlands
Village in the Scottish Highlands

Before too long we arrived at Urquhart Castle and Loch (Lake) Ness. The ruins of Urquhart Castle, once one of largest strongholds of medieval Scotland, is an impressive structure overlooking Loch Ness. It's also the home of the legendary "Nessie" sea monster. In 1933, an enterprising editor in Inverness enlivened a slow news week with the story of an odd sighting in Loch Ness. The legend of the Loch Ness Monster grew overnight. Legend says that the Loch Ness Monster inhabits a cave beneath the ruins of Urquhart Castle. The site of the castle was already overrun with tourists when we got there. There was a very nice visitors center and gift shop in front of the castle where I found store employees giving out samples of Scottish whisky, coffee and other highland goodies. After tasting a few samples, I took some photos and video of the grounds before heading down a steep hill to the ruins and the shores of Loch Ness.

Links to my 2 Videos from Loch Ness are here at my Travels With Gerri You Tube video channel:

Video of the Castle at Loch Ness Scotland

Video of Loch Ness Shoreline in Scotland

I walked over to the castle and took some photos before a nice man offered to take my picture for me.

Me at the Castle and Loch Ness, Scotland
Urquhart Castle ruins
Tourists enjoying the Loch Ness and Castle ruins

From the shores of Loch Ness I walked back up to the Visitors Center to shop for souvenirs. I bought some Scottish Whisky and some post cards. I was tempted to buy a stuffed Nessie toy but refrained; I had enough stuff to pack to take home as it was. The drive back to port took us through downtown Inverness. There were throngs of people on the streets shopping and sightseeing. Inverness is a very attractive place.

Visitors shopping in Inverness, Scotland
Inverness Castle, Scotland
A busy street in Inverness, Scotland

Back at the dock I joined a long line of passengers waiting to board the Crown Princess after a long day in port. As we waited, a lone bagpipe player played for us to keep us entertained. It was just one more thing I loved about Scotland, the people really let you know how much they appreciate your visit to their part of the world.

Here is a video clip of our Bag Pipe send off:

Video of Bagpipe Player at Crown Princess dock in Scotland

And here is a Photo of our Bag Pipe Player send off from Invergordon, Scotland


I found Mom relaxing in our cabin and I filled her in on all the day’s events as I unloaded all of my stuff that I carried or purchased during the tour. Sailaway that evening gave us another lovely view of the coast of Scotland. Tomorrow we would dock in Edinburgh (South Queensferry), Scotland. I was looking forward to visiting the famous and historic sites of this well know city!

To Be Continued.......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
Visit my Travels With Gerri You Tube Travel Video Channel

Posted by Gerriv 07:54 Comments (2)

A Trek Thru the British Isles VIII-Glasgow Scotland

An Early Warm Welcome to Scotland Brings Big Smiles

From my very first sail on a cruise ship back in 1990, I have always slept very well out at sea. The rocking motion of the ship as she moves across the ocean has worked better than the strongest sleeping pill. On the morning of our arrival in Greenock Scotland, the gateway to Glasgow, Scotland, I was dead to the world asleep in my cabin aboard the Crown Princess. Through a fog of sleep, I heard a strange whining sound that woke me up. It was early, before 8:00am local time and with the drapes closed, I could not tell if it were day or night. Mom was still asleep so I stumbled to the door leading to our balcony and stepped outside in my nightgown. That is when I recognized the sound of bagpipes! Grabbing my camera and a robe, I went to the ship railing and saw two men in Scottish regalia playing the bagpipes down on the dock. It was an amazing sight! What a fantastic welcome to Scotland!

Welcome to Scotland video link

Bagpipe Welcome to Scotland

I stayed on the balcony for quite a while before getting dressed and heading up to the buffet for breakfast. Mom elected to stay in bed a while longer as we did not have a tour until after lunch. After breakfast I decided to take a walk into the town of Greenock to stretch my legs and take a look around. Leaving the ship I walked through the port gates and onto the sidewalk lining the street leading to the shopping mall. I wanted to pick up a few supplies including some over the counter pain reliever for Mom and some beauty supplies for me. It was a cool clear morning and the streets of the town were fairly quiet. With the exception of the cars and names of the stores, I could have been on the street in any town in the United States.

Street in Greenock Scotland

The Mall was indoors and had a wide selection of shops. I soon found a drug store or pharmacy that had everything that I was looking for. Standing in line to buy the over the counter pain reliever I looked around and listen to the local people making their purchases. Their lilting accents were lovely to hear. The clerk behind the counter bid me a friendly hello and asked if I had come in on the ship that morning. Saying yes, she noticed my accent as asked if I was an American and what did I think of Scotland so far. Looking back on that moment later on, I marveled at the one thing that I had noticed about the local people in Ireland and now in Scotland. Rather than being seen as Black or as an African American, I was seen by the local people as just another American visiting their country. Without exception, everyone that I met on this journey had been open, warm and friendly as well as very curious about the USA. I spent a few minutes talking to the clerk about my experience so far and she made sure that I knew all the important facts about the medication that I was buying. Bidding me a safe journey and a nice visit to Glasgow, the clerk waved goodbye as I left the store. It was a nice way to start the day.

Just after lunch we boarded our tour bus for the trip to Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands. In the 18th century much of the tobacco trade between Europe and the USA was routed through Glasgow and provided a great source of wealth. Even after the tobacco trade declined in the 19th century, the city continued to prosper as a centre of textile manufacturing, shipbuilding, and the coal and steel industries. The 20th century witnessed both decline and renewal in the city. After World War I, the city suffered from the impact of the Post–World War I recession and from the later Great Depression. By the 1960s, a lack of investment and innovation led to growing overseas competition in countries like Japan and Germany which weakened the once pre-eminent position of many of the city's industries.

Today Glasgow is going through a long-term transformation, highlighted by the revitalized River Clyde, where visitors can explore Glasgow’s maritime heritage along the many Museums and galleries that abound in the city. There is culture and nightlife as well as beautiful architecture everywhere you look, though the city still shows the remnants of its industrial past in the very obvious layers of soot from coal mines that still cover many of the buildings. Our tour took us to the amazing Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, through the streets and parks of the city as well as a walk around several churches and cathedrals. It was a lovely warm and sunny day. My camera got quite a workout as there was so much of interest to photograph. Mom and I purchased several authentic Scottish made gifts at the Kelvingrove Galley including jewelry and some wonderful bath gel and soap. We had a great afternoon in Glasgow.

Glasgow street scene
Glasgow park near the Kelvingrove Galley and Museum
Kelvingrove Gallery Exhibit
Glasgow Cathedral being cleaned of soot
View of Glasgow square as seen from the tour bus

Returning to our cabin just before sailaway that evening, Mom and I decided to enjoy our final moments in Greenock from our balcony. Not surprisingly, another bagpipe band was on the dock beginning a goodbye concert. The music was great and we enjoyed it along with all the other passengers before the ship left port.

Bagpipe Band Farewell Video link

Bagpipe band bids us Farewell

We stood out on our balcony for a long time watching the beauty of the coast of Scotland fade as we headed out to sea. It was so green and beautiful that I could not get enough of the view. The day had been wonderful and now it was time to go to dinner and compare our visit with that of our dining companions. My first taste of Scotland had been wonderful and I was looking forward to our visit to the Scottish Highlands and the mysterious Loch Ness the next day!

Greenock Sailaway Video link

Beautiful coast of Scotland from our balcony on the Crown Princess

Next up we visit Inverness, Scotland and I take a trip though the Scottish Highlands to Loch Ness to see if I can spot the famous Loch Ness Monster!

To be continued......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 11:42 Comments (0)

A Trek Thru the British Isles VII-Belfast, NI

An Enlightening Visit to Northern Ireland

Belfast Northern Ireland was for many years a place known for violence and discord among members of its diverse population during the times called "the Troubles" a period of ethnic and political conflict in Northern Ireland. The principal issues at stake in the Troubles were the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the relationship between the Protestant unionist and the Catholic nationalist communities in Northern Ireland. Today, Belfast has been revived after a period of calm and is now free from conflict and destruction. It has become a beautiful Victorian city with green rolling hills and a modern cityscape with hip boutiques and chic stores.

The largest city and the capital of Northern Ireland, the city of Belfast has a population of 267,500 and lies at the heart of the Belfast urban area, which has a population of 483,418. Belfast has been the center of Irish Linen making and ship building. The city's main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, which built the RMS Titanic, propelled Belfast on to the world stage as the largest and most productive shipyard in the world. The ship building history of Belfast was readily apparent from my first view of it from my balcony on the Crown Princess at the pier. Large cranes and scaffolds were all along the dock and the city could be seen not too far away.


Leaving the ship that morning, Mom and I headed to our excursion transportation for our "Easy Belfast" tour that would give us an overview of the city. I liked our tour guide right away. He was friendly and outgoing and eager to tell us all about his home and its history. Leaving the port we drove through the city streets and I immediately noticed how clean and green everything was. The roads were paved and in great condition, the downtown area had lots of beautiful buildings and shops. I was very impressed. I had no idea what to expect, having known nothing about Belfast but it's history of unrest and political strife. All around me there was nothing but a beautiful, busy city with lots of friendly people. Our first stop on the tour was at the Queens University where our guide took some time to point out the lovely architecture and history of the university. While he was talking, I took some quick videos to capture the scene and the feeling of Belfast.

Video of Queens University, Belfast Northern Ireland

From the University we walked down the street to the Botanical Gardens for a short walk around before heading back to the tour bus. Our next stop was a beautiful park with expansive views from the government building that sat high on a hill. From that point we could see for miles and the view was terrific!

City Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast Parliament Building
Downtown Belfast
The Beautiful Green Hills of Belfast

Our next stop turned out to be my favorite, the historic Belfast Castle. The first Belfast Castle was built by the Normans in Belfast city centre in the late 12th century. A second castle, made of stone and timber, was later constructed by Sir Arthur Chichester, Baron of Belfast, on the same site in 1611. It burned down almost 100 years later, leaving only street names, such as Castle Place, to mark its location. In 1862, the third Marquis of Donegall, a descendant of the Chichester family, decided to build a new castle within his deer park, situated on the side of Cave Hill in what is now north Belfast. When the Marquis died in 1884, the castle and its estate passed to Lord Ashley, the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. The castle remained with the family for many years, before they eventually presented it and the surrounding estate to the City of Belfast in 1934. Today the castle is the site of many weddings, conferences and social events. At the time of our visit, there was an actual wedding going on. Looking at the beautiful grounds and views I could see why any bride would want to be married there.

Video of Belfast Castle grounds

Belfast Castle
Belfast Castle Grounds
The Crown Princess as seen from Belfast Castle
A New Bride at Belfast Castle

Returning to the ship at the end of our tour I reflected on how much I had learned about Belfast and Northern Ireland in general. All of my preconceived notions about this part of the world were now gone, and in its place was an understanding and an appreciation for this country and its people. It had been a great day!

Next up, we leave Ireland and head to Scotland for the next part of our 12 Day British Isles Cruise!

To be continued.......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services
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Posted by Gerriv 08:15 Comments (2)

A Trek Thru the British Isles VI- More Liverpool, UK

Touring the sights in Liverpool, England and a ride down Penny Lane

"Easy Liverpool" was the name of the tour of our 3rd port of call, Liverpool, England. Our tour bus driver took us on a drive through the city starting at the Museum of Art and a beautiful park across the street. It was a lovely sunny day and there were flowers in bloom everywhere.

Liverpool City Park

Streets of Liverpool, England

The Beatles Hotel in downtown Liverpool

From the park we went around the city until we arrived at our first stop of the day, the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. The Metropolitan Cathedral Church of Christ the King is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpool. The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Liverpool and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool. The Metropolitan Cathedral is one of two cathedrals in the city, The other is the Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool. The Metropolitan Cathedral is unusual looking to say the least. There was a competition to design the Cathedral that was held in 1959. The requirements for the design was first, for a congregation of 3,000 (which was later reduced to 2,000) to be able to see the altar, in order that they could be more involved in the celebration of the Mass, and second, for the Lutyens crypt to be incorporated in the structure. The winner of the competition achieved these requirements by designing a circular building with the altar at its centre, and by transforming the roof of the crypt into an elevated platform, with the cathedral standing at one end of it. It was an amazing structure. We toured the cathedral for a short time before moving on the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral

Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, completed in 1978, is the largest in the UK and the fifth largest in the world. After seeing it, this massive beautiful structure became my favorite of those that I had seen. Liverpool Cathedral occupies a total area of 104,270 sq ft and was built mainly of sandstone quarried from the Liverpool suburb of Woolton. The cathedral's bell tower is the largest, and also one of the tallest in the world, rising to a height of 331 ft. It houses the highest and heaviest ringing peal of bells in the world as well. Walking inside the cathedral, I could feel my jaw drop just looking around.

Liverpool Cathedral

Leaving Liverpool Cathedral, our tour bus took us to other less busy parts of the city. Our next stop was known to every Beatles fan like myself, Penny Lane from the famous Beatles song of the same name. Our driver made a quick photo stop for us so we could take a photo to commemorate our visit, we drove down Penny Lane while the bus driver played the song over the loud speakers. Everyone on the bus started singing including me. It was so much fun! If you are not familiar with the song, here it is:

Penny Lane video...

Me and the Penny Lane sign!

Just off Penny Lane, I saw another familiar name from another famous Beatles song, the Sgt Peppers Bistro! It was amazing to see the actual places that were the inspiration for some of the Beatles more popular songs.


Stopping for lunch midway through the tour Mom and I had a chance to sample some fish and chips while visiting with some new friends from Ireland that were also on the cruise. They were traveling while enjoying a 1 month vacation from work. One of the things I enjoy most about traveling is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and learning about their countries and culture. One month annual vacations were the norm where our new Irish friends came from and I was very impressed.

Finally heading back to the ship at the end of the tour, I took a good look around, trying to burn it all into my memory. Standing out on our balcony as we sailed away from Liverpool on the Crown Princess, I noticed something unusual in the distance. As we sailed closer I realized that I was looking at wind turbines out in the middle of the ocean! What an amazing thing to see! Just another memory I would never forget about Liverpool. Liverpool had been a total surprise to me in almost every way and I could not have been happier to have had this opportunity to visit.

Quaint Liverpool neighborhood

The Crown Princess parked at the dock

Wind Turbines out in the ocean!

Next up, I visit Belfast, Northern Ireland!

To Be Continued........

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services
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Posted by Gerriv 09:34 Comments (0)

A Trek Thru the British Isles V-Cobh & Liverpool

Shopping and Lunch in Blarney, Ireland and a visit to Liverpool, England

Cobh Ireland is a seaport town on the south coast of County Cork, Ireland. One of the major transatlantic Irish ports, Cobh was the departure point for 2.5 million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950. On April 11, 1912 Queenstown was the final port of call for the RMS Titanic as she set out across the Atlantic on her ill-fated maiden voyage. 123 passengers boarded the Titanic in all; only 44 survived the sinking. Cobh was also a major embarkation port for men, women and children who were deported to penal colonies such as Australia. Another notable ship associated with the town is the Cunard passenger liner RMS Lusitania, which was sunk by a German U-Boat off the Old Head of Kinsale while en route to Liverpool in on May 7, 1915. Some 1198 passengers died during that disaster, while 700 people were rescued. The survivors and victims were brought to the town of Cobh, and over one hundred lie buried in the Old Church Cemetery just north of the town. The Lusitania Peace memorial is located in Casement Square opposite the arched building housing the Cobh Library and Courthouse.

The morning we docked in Cobh were greeted with misty skies. A light drizzle had begun to fall as I headed up to the buffet for breakfast. As leery of rain as an indoor cat, I planned many of our shore excursions for the afternoon in order to avoid the possibility of rain as much as possible. However, after seeing the beautiful hills of Cobh, I wished I had planned for an all day tour that included a detailed look at Cobh. This picturesque village was stunning, even in the misty rain.

My first view of Cobh, Ireland video

A View of Cobh from the bow of the Crown Princess

Port of Cobh, Ireland

By the time we left the ship for our tour the rain had evaporated and the sun had come out. It was a beautiful day. Our tour bus drove us through downtown Cobh before we headed out to the Irish countryside on our way to Blarney Woolen Mills in the town of Blarney, Ireland. Yes, Blarney is the town associated with the Blarney Stone and Blarney Castel. When I selected this tour, I had to decide between a visit to Blarney Mills or Blarney Castle as there was not time to visit both. After doing lots of research, I decided to visit the Mills to do some shopping and have lunch, rather than fight the crowds at the Castle and the lines of people waiting to climb a ton of stairs to go to the top of the castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. I decided that as I had made it all the way from Alabama to Ireland, I was not short on luck and did not need to fight my fear of heights to kiss a stone.

Downtown Cobh, Ireland
The Streets of Cobh
Blarney Castle
Kissing the Blarney Stone

Blarney Woolen Mills in the picturesque village of Blarney, is a 30,000 square foot retail store housed in one of Ireland's oldest and most authentic Irish woolen mills. There is a bar, restaurant and hotel also located on the site. We arrived around lunchtime and I could hear Irish music playing as we stepped off the tour bus. Feeling hungry we decided to have some lunch before shopping in the Mills store. The food in the restaurant was served buffet style and it was hard to make a choice. Mom and I decided on some authentic Irish Stew and an Irish Coffee to top it off. What a fabulous choice! The stew was rich and delicious and the Irish Coffee was delicious and gave us just enough of a buzz to get us relaxed before shopping.

Entrance to Blarney Woolen Mills in Blarney, Ireland

Blarney Woolen Mills Yummy Irish Coffee

After Lunch we did some serious shopping! There was so much to choose from in the Mills Store that it made me dizzy. After an hour or so, we finally completed our purchases and boarded the tour bus for the trip back to Cobh and the ship. It had been a lovely day in the Republic of Ireland and I was sad to leave as I watched the shoreline fade away from our balcony. There simply had not been enough time to see it all, so hopefully I would be able to return one day.

Our next port of call was Liverpool, England. To say that I was surprised at the sight of this bustle ling modern city would be an understatement. Docked practically in the middle of town, my view of Liverpool was an awesome sight! Instead of the small town that I had envisioned, Liverpool was quite the opposite. It was a large, cosmopolitan city with fabulous shops, restaurants, hip hotels and trendy wine bars. There were also world class cultural offerings such as museums, art galleries and cathedrals. Known around the world as the birthplace of the Beatles, the city payed homage to the band everywhere you looked.

Video of my first view of Liverpool, England

Liverpool, England

The Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool, England

The Beatles from the 1960s

With warm sunny weather and a lot of sights to see, I looked forward to our all day tour of Liverpool!

Next up, part II of my visit to Liverpool, England.

To be continued.....

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 08:45 Comments (2)

A Trek Thru the British Isles IV- Dublin, Ireland

A Visit to the capitol of the Republic of Ireland

The next port of call on our British Isles cruise was Dublin, Ireland, the capital of the Republic of Ireland. We docked on a misty, cloudy morning not too far from the city center. Mom and I headed up to breakfast early because we had an all day city tour scheduled to begin around mid morning. After breakfast I went up on the top deck of the Crown Princess to take some photos and video.

Port of Dublin Ireland

View of Downtown Dublin from the deck of the Crown Princess

Video of the Port of Dublin, Ireland

Dublin and the Republic of Ireland has a fascinating history. There is evidence of the existence of Dublin that dates back to the second century. Norman Vikings were the first settlers of the city. Dublin was later captured in the 9th century by the Danes. The Irish wrested control of Dublin from the Danes on a number of occasions during the next three centuries, until 1171 when the Danes were expelled by the Anglo-Normans, led by Henry II, king of England. Until the middle of the 17th century, Dublin remained a small, walled medieval town until 1649, after the English Civil Wars when the town was taken over by Oliver Cromwell. By the end of the 17th century a period of growth began when Protestant refugees from the European continent began pouring into Dublin. During the next century, Dublin grew size and wealth and became the second city of the British Empire. This growth made Dublin an exciting city for the Protestant members of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, a group who had routinely denied basic civil rights to the native population of Roman Catholics.

Ireland became independent in 1922 after the 1916 Rebellion and the subsequent War of Independence. After Independence, Dublin became the political, economic, and cultural center of Ireland. Maritime trade is one of Dublin's most important activities and Dublin is Ireland's largest port and major exporter. It has also developed into the largest manufacturing city in Ireland. The city's most famous business is the Guinness Brewery, founded in 1759 and one of Ireland's largest employers and exporters.

Our city tour of Dublin began with a drive down the busy city streets. I was amazed by the beautiful buildings and all of the bridges along the way. One particular bridge caught my attention because it looked like a huge sail boat in the middle of downtown. Apparently this bridge is not a favorite of Dubliners because our guide, a wonderful, knowledgeable and extremely funny lady, made fun of the bridge as we were passing by. I thought it was great!

Downtown Dublin, Ireland

A unique looking bridge in Dublin

Looking out of the window of our tour bus I noticed a series of bronze statues of emaciated looking people erected along the sidewalk. Our guide informed us that the statues were a memorial to the victims of the Irish Potato Famine. It was one of the most moving memorials that I have ever seen.
Located on Custom House Quay, it consists of sculptures of starving people walking towards the ships on the docks to leave Ireland for other countries, mostly the United States, in hope for a better life. Ireland was struck with a great famine between 1845-49 when it was hit with potato blight, that destroyed most of the potato crop in the country. One million people died of starvation or disease caused from lack of food. I had never seen anything like it and I remember it clearly even today, months after seeing it.

Potato Famine Memorial in Dublin, Ireland

The first stop on our tour was Trinity College. Trinity College, formally known as the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth, was founded in 1592 and is Ireland's oldest university. I found it very interesting that Trinity was set up in part to consolidate the rule of the Tudor monarchy in Ireland, and it was seen as the university of the Protestant Ascendancy for much of its history. Although some Roman Catholics had been permitted to enter as early as 1793, restrictions on their membership of the college remained until 1873 and the Catholic Church in Ireland forbade its adherents from attending the college without permission until 1970. Women were first admitted to the college as full members in 1904.

Our guide spent a great bit of time telling us about the discrimination against Catholics and women in Trinity College's early days.

Short video snapshot of our Trinity College tour

Trinity College, or University of Dublin, has graduated authors Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, and Oscar Wilde. Its library houses the 8th-century 'Book of Kells', the famous decorated gospel book made by Celtic Monks.

Our tour guide in Dublin leads us around Trinity College
I saw lots of unusual art scattered around the college grounds
Trinity College Library, location of The Book of Kells

The last stop on our Dublin Tour was Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Saint Patrick's is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, a member church of the Anglican Communion. Saint Patrick is said to have passed through Dublin on his journey through Ireland where he is said to have baptized converts from paganism to Christianity in a well close to where the Cathedral now stands. To commemorate his visit a small wooden church was built on the site, one of the four Celtic parish churches in Dublin. Saint Patrick's is the only remaining cathedral church in Ireland with a daily pattern of sung services. In addition to these services the Cathedral hosts many national religious commemorations. The Cathedral attracts some 300,000 visitors each year. I was to see many churches and cathedrals on this journey, but I can honestly say that St. Patrick’s was one of the most memorable.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral
Interior of Saint Patrick's Cathedral
Beautiful windows in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Arriving back at the Crown Princess after our tour of Dublin, I wanted to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming. Alabama, USA is a long way from Ireland, but I was there and was loving every minute of it. What made it all the more awesome was that there was so much more to come on our British Isles cruise!

Next up I visit Liverpool, England, the home of the the Beatles and I take ride down Penny Lane!

To be continued........

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 07:36 Comments (4)

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