[YEAR 7!] Quit our jobs, sold our home, gone riding...


The valley below is called the Golden Vale, a quiltwork of pastures and farmland

Then another couple of hours and we find ourselves entering Dublin, our last stop in Ireland. We're booking two more days in an AirBnB to go explore the city. The first day, we just spend indoors relaxing and taking a well-deserved break.

Our host, Karen, is a really interesting lady. She's got fiery red hair and is super-friendly, making us feel so at home at her place. But the coolest thing ever is that she's an actress on The Game of Thrones! WHAAAT! We *LOVE* Game of Thrones!!!!

Actually, she's just an extra in the background scenes. There was a casting call for anyone with red hair, so she answered it and got the job immediately. She's actually got a real full-time job, but when she told us she was on the Game of Thrones, I totally forgot what her real job was. If I was her, I'd always lead with "Yeah, I'm an actor on the Game of Thrones" and then just randomly pepper all my conversations with, "Valar morghulis", "You know nothing Jon Snow!", and "Hold the door" :(

We peppered her with a million and one questions on what it was like to work on the set. She said every once in a while, she'll get a phone call and then she'll drive up to Belfast, where the main set is to shoot some scenes. When we heard that, we exclaimed, "Belfast! That's far. It took us 12 days to get from Belfast to Dublin!"

"Uh, not really. It only takes 90 minutes by car if you go direct."

I looked on the map. True enough. We *did* take the Long Way Round... And we're slow.


Funny how you become the most popular person in the household when you're preparing a meal... The cat in the window made me ROFL!

So Karen left us for the afternoon to run some errands. She asked if we could dogsit for her. She's got a beautiful black dog, named Django (named after the guitar player, not Unchained). "No problem! We love dogs. He doesn't have an obsession with soccer balls, does he...?"

So while she was away, we ordered Indian food for takeout. Django was begging so much that Neda relented and fed him some spicy chicken tikka masala. He greedily gulped it down and then, without warning, proceeded to cough and hack violently because of the spices. We were mortified!

"OMIGOD Neda, you killed Django!"

We watched in horror as the dog continued to hack and cough. The convulsions eventually subsided and Django looked up and cocked his head. Then he begged for more tikka masala! LOL!

I hope Karen's not reading our blog...

The next day, we head out into the city to explore. And because we're on bikes, It rains. Of course it does. Of course...


We're really only interested in seeing one thing in Dublin. Cobblestones where we are headed to...


At St James Gate, huge metal tanks tower 30 feet high in the air. They're protected by a border of brick walls

Posters on the brick walls reveal our next destination. The Guinness Factory. The birthplace of one of our favorite beers! Those metal storage towers are filled with thick, black, bitter nectar from the Leprechaun Gods themselves!

Yes, we don't pay admission to go to museums or historic buildings. But we do pay to see where they brew beer... Priorities.


The first thing everyone does in the Guinness factory is hit the gift store

Wow, so many different ways you can consume your Guinness. The toffee and caramel products have me intrigued. I can totally see Guinness-flavoured caramel toppings on cakes, chocolates, etc. I love Guinness!


But really, these are the most important sections of the Guinness Factory tour

The Guinness Factory tour building is seven stories tall and is shaped like a pint of Guinness. Each level is dedicated to some aspect of beer making, from the actual production, to the transportation, marketing, etc. All that is mildly interesting, but there are three pubs inside the building, and *those* are the most popular floors in the tour...
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The tasting room only has these shot-glasses of Guinness. Not exactly what we were hoping for...


Another floor is dedicated to showing all the Guinness advertising. More distractions, but the main event...


... is the rolicking pub on the top floor of the building. This is where the party is!

Keeping in mind that we have to ride back after the tour, we try to drink responsibly and wait an appropriate amount of time to sober up... :) [/end PSA]
This is our last day in Ireland. And what a tour it's been! The Wild Atlantic Way has definitely been a highlight but we've been going non-stop for a few months now - the longest stretch without a break in a while. It's been enjoyable for the most part, but our pacing is way off the way we usually travel. At times it seems like we're just riding and riding and riding. Fatigue is setting in a big way and we desperately need to stop and take a break, but we never do end up stopping. It's the impending cold weather that pushes us on. And on. And on.

Or maybe it's something else...?



Good to see you both enjoying the Guinness factory, the view from the roof top bar is great.

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Goodbye Ireland! We had a great time!

The ferry from Dublin takes us across the North Channel, back to the UK. We're slowly unwinding our tour of the British Isles. It's a quick jaunt. In less than a couple of hours we're deposited on the shores of Holyhead, Wales. Wales! I checked and it's a new country!


The Welsh countryside. Not that much different from English pastures

I'll be honest, we didn't do any research about Wales. Don't know the history, don't know the culture, food, etc. We're kinda exhausted and we're just passing through. One thing that did catch my eye were all the road signs in the Welsh language. I tried to read the names out loud in my head: Llanllyfnl. Okaaay... and then: Llanfairpwllgwyngyll... My head snapped back as I still hadn't finished reading the sign when we rode past it. WHAAA...!?!

Surely someone in the Ministry of Transportation is playing a joke on all the tourists driving away from the ferry terminal.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll! How do you even pronounce that?!? At least that name had some vowels in it - 20 letters, 3 vowels. I did some research and that's not even the weirdest name. Cwmystwyth. 10 letters, NO vowels. Bwlchgwyn. Ysbyty Ystwyth. Whadahek?


Did you know Superman had a Welsh super-villain?

After staring at some of these signs, I'm starting to see how the w's, y's and ll's replace the vowels. So the rest of this post will be written in Welsh.

Ww rydll ynwyrds ty llr nyxt dllstynwtyn.

Our route takes us south through Snowdonia National Park, and we take a pit stop in the town of Beddgelert for lunch

Snowdonia is a popular place for vacationers to go hiking. It's based around the Snowdon mountain, so the roads around the area twist and wind around the geography of mountains and lakes.


The Brits love their dragons


Peter, peddlin' his wares
Apart from dragons, Beddgelert is also known as the final resting place for Gelert, Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd's faithful hound. It's a popular folk tale that's been retold in many other places, in other forms. Llywelyn came home to find his baby missing, and Gelert's mouth covered in blood. Assuming that his dog killed and ate his child, the prince slayed Gelert. Shortly after, he heard the cries of his baby under the crib, with the body of a dead wolf beside him.

It was Gelert that had battled the wolf and killed it, protecting his child.

Llywelyn was stricken with grief, and he buried his faithful hound here in the fields of Beddgelert, the name means, "Gelert's Grave". Prince Llywelyn never smiled again.


Neda is not smilng either, after reading Gelert's story, which is written on his grave

As dog-lovers, that was such a sad story to read! :(


In times of sadness, ice cream comes to the rescue. That was such a sad story, so...

And Neda is happy again! So onwards we go, further south into Wales.
Along the way, I prepared Neda for our next stop over the intercom:

"Who are you?"
"The new Number Two."
"Who is Number One?"
"You are Number Six."
"I am not a number! I am a free man!"
"Ah hahah hahahahaha!!!!"

When I was a kid, I used to watch an old TV show called "The Prisoner". It was about a secret agent who was about to retire, when he was kidnapped and imprisoned on a secret island to figure out what he knew. He didn't know whether it was his own government who sent him there, or an enemy state. The whole series was about him trying to figure out who his captors were and how to escape the island.

My favorite part was the opening credits, which showed him being interrogated by the Number Two in charge, who was replaced almost every episode because our hero always got the better of him.

Neda's never seen the series, but she thought my recitation of the show's opening credits was hilarious. "Again!", she laughed over the intercom.

"I am not a number! I am a free man!"


"The Prisoner" was filmed in Portmeirion, on the western coast of Wales

When I first saw the series, I always thought that they had built these fantastically psychedelic, elaborate sets specifically for the show. But I found out later that it's a real village! After that, this place definitely went on the bucket list. The village charges quite an expensive entrance fee. But hey... bucket list item...


The designer of Portmeirion, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, based the village on towns on the Italian Riviera

What actually turned out was a strange caricature of an Italian Riviera town, disjointed pastel colours, anachronistic modern design and little flourishes that wouldn't look out of place on a gingerbread house. It totally fit the theme of a 60s psychedelic TV show.


I was surprised to see that the beach from The Prisoner was not a separate set. It's actually the shores of Portmeirion, just outside the village

In the TV show, people who try to escape the island are captured by "Rover", a huge bouncing white beach ball that pounces on the prisoners and traps them inside, to bring them back to the village.

So psychedelic! You have to watch it. It even sounds strange typing the above.

A very strange prison, indeed

Like most 60s TV shows, the themes were about counter-culture, defying authority and surveillance, and mistrust of the government. But the one theme that resonated with me was the expression of individuality. These days, with all our identities being reduced to numbers - Social Insurance Numbers, Drivers License Numbers, Passport Numbers, The Prisoner struggled against the system, rejecting the number assigned to him upon imprisonment.

"I am not a number! I am a free man!"

Groovy. I'm hip to that.

(Ironically, we never learn what The Prisoner's real name is)

It was getting late, so we left the village of Portmeirion ("Be seeing you!") and headed straight east.


This was our destination road: The Cat and Fiddle Run

This is probably the most famous motorcycle road in England. It's also designated as the UK's most dangerous road because of all the motorcycle accidents here. The road surface is smooth, there are clear sightlines around most of the turns and there isn't a lot of traffic. But the scenery and the twisty tarmac tempts most riders to go much faster than their talents allow.

No danger for us, we've got our whole house and everything we own strapped to the back of our motorcycles. But that doesn't stop us from enjoying the rolling hills of the Cheshire Plains, as the sun slowly sets behind us.

It's nearly dark by the time we reach Buxton, at the end of the Cat and Fiddle road. It looks like a dry evening, so we check our maps to find a suitable campsite. There are a couple in town, but when we ride up to the gates, both of them are full for the evening.

Ugh. By the time we leave the second site, it's pitch black. No choice but to book a hotel.


This one was not too expensive. A last minute booking. Double the price of a campsite, but it's a roof over our heads.

Swanky-looking on the outside, but not that swanky inside the rooms...

This is us leaving the next morning.
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And then taking the roadways straight-shot down to our next stop, all the way to the southern coast of England. We're staying in the Black Hills, between Somerset and Devon. We've got an AirBnB booked, a small, secluded cottage out in the woods. But once again, we have troubles finding it on our GPS. We park our bikes outside where we think it is and I walk up and ring the doorbell. An angry old lady comes to the door and demands to know what we are doing on her front step.

"We're just trying to find this address, ma'am", I asked, pointing at the screen on my iPhone.
"I don't understand you. Wot language are you speaking?", she yelled at me.
"Um, I'm speaking English."
"That's no' any English oi've ever 'erd!"

Dahek? We're having a complete conversation and you're understanding me just fine!

I don't say this out loud. I just back away and we get back on our bikes to try to find the AirBnB on our own. She continued yelling at us from her front door as we rode away.

What a bizarre conversation. I'm not going to infer any kinds of overtones to this weird exchange. Honestly she sounded like she was just crazy...


Hey, we found our AirBnB!

To our relief, our hosts Leonora and David are totally sane and super-nice people. They welcome us to our cottage and over drinks, we talk about our journey. They are also travelers and it's obvious that they're running an AirBnB not to make money, but to meet other travelers. David is from the UK, and Leonora is from Colombia. When she found out we traveled through Latin America and learned Spanish along the way, she immediately turned off the English and we continued the evening en español. This totally endeared us to her and we felt like we were adopted right on the spot!

Oh man, at the end of the evening, my brain was so tired from trying to recall the español. Or maybe it was the wine...


Next morning, we head out to Neda's pick of the day

We each have our list of things we want to see in the UK. Mine are all based on TV shows. Neda likes nature. We're here in Lyme Regis, also known as the Jurassic Coast! It's foggy when we arrive in the morning, but the sun quickly burns off the mist as we walk through town to get to the beach.


Walking through the coastal town of Lyme Regis

Neda heard that you can find fossils on the beach. And there's nothing she likes better than picking up rocks and small dogs and stuffing them into her tankbag!
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The beach at Lyme Regis is called The Cobb

I watch as she paces up and down the beach, staring at the ground looking for fossils. No luck. We see a guy walk past us with a small pick and hammer and a bucket of black rocks. They look like fossils. We ask him where he found them. He told us we were in the wrong spot - there's nothing on the beach - but to walk a few hundred meters towards the cliffs just outside of town.


He also recommended we purchase a pick and hammer from in town to go fossil hunting. We thanked him for his advice, but we didn't want to spend the money and then have to carry around a pick and hammer for the rest of our trip.


The real Jurassic Coast!

Everyone around us is carrying the little hammers that they tap against the cliff walls and the large rocks on the ground, looking to crack open a piece of Jurassic history.


Neda does it the cave-man way, bashing rock on rock.

Look what she discovered!!!

Actually, she just found them lying on the ground. Her cave-man skills didn't turn up anything but a couple of sore arms.


Not to be outdone, I show her my find!

Actually, Neda found this one too. I'm just posing with it.

These are super-cool! Obviously we can't take the large pieces with us, but Neda saves a few for her tankbag. She's got rocks, leaves and small animals from all over the world in that thing. It must be like the TARDIS: bigger on the inside...


Even without the fossils, the Jurassic Coast is a beautiful place to visit

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