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Brevity and Brexity:  A husband's unusual viewpoint on English History and Marla's trip to England




  2017 British Isles Itinerary 

   June 06: Day 01 


  London (Southampton), England

   June 07: Day 02 


  Guernsey (St. Peter Port)

   June 08: Day 03 


  Cork, Ireland

   June 09: Day 04


  Dublin, Ireland

   June 10: Day 05


  Liverpool, England

   June 11: Day 06


  Belfast, Northern Ireland 

   June 12: Day 07 


  Glasgow, Scotland 

   June 13: Day 08  


  At sea

   June 14: Day 09 


  Inverness/Loch Ness, Scottland 

   June 15: Day 10  


  Edinburgh, Scotland 

   June 16: Day 11


  At Sea

   June 17: Day 12


  Paris/Normandy, France

   June 18: Day 13


  London (Southampton), England

Rick Archer's Note:

My June 2017 trip to Merrye Auld England with Marla was a sweet trip indeed.  Oddly enough, the only unusual thing that happened was a string of vicious terrorist attacks in London during our stay.

Fortunately no one in our group was affected.  The trip itself was very pleasant, but somewhat uneventful.  Since I was in the process of writing a book at the time, upon my return I was more concerned with picking up the trail of my book than writing my usual Recap about the trip.  Please forgive. 

That said, I did manage to write two articles based in part on my trip to England.  One was a before-the-trip article on English history titled 'Brevity and Brexity'.  If you like English history, you would probably enjoy this curious article about how the most important battlefield in English history came to be lost.   The other article, 'Dracula, Loch Ness, and Blarney Stone' can be read below. 


Dracula, the Loch Ness Monster and the Blarney Stone


Rick Archer's Note: 

I doubt seriously anyone has ever written an article that includes Dracula, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Blarney Stone.  I wish to be the first, so I decided to undertake this pioneering effort.  No doubt a Pulitzer beckons.

In June 2017, Marla and I took a lovely three-week cruise around the British Isles. 

To be honest, I think I enjoy river cruises a bit more than ocean cruises.  While the ocean cruises have far more ways to entertain their passengers, my preference is to get a feel for the culture of the area I have visited.  As a rule, a river cruise is far superior to an ocean cruise in this regard.  A river cruise gets you inside the country and lets you see how the people live.  You typically get the whole day to explore a town or an area of interest. 

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a river cruise in England.  Can anyone guess why?

It really isn't that complicated... there simply are not any long rivers in England nor are they big enough to sustain a river cruise boat.   The River Thames and the Severn River are both 200 miles long.  By comparison, the Rhine River is 800 miles long and the Danube 1,800 miles. 

The solution, of course, is not to take an inland trip, but rather use a mid-sized cruise ship to make a circle around the British Isles.  Considering we saw a new location virtually every day, this worked out just fine.

My favorite spot on the trip turned out to be Blarney Castle in southern Ireland.  I enjoyed this visit thoroughly for all the wrong reasons.   The highlight of the day was supposed to be the opportunity to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. 

Theoretically, kissing the Blarney Stone is said to bestow the gift of gab upon the smoocher.   My enthusiasm was dampened a bit when Marla said I didn't need any further help.  Undeterred, I climbed the steep castle steps anyway.  A writer like me can use all the gab he can get in pursuit of that Pulitzer.

The word "blarney", meaning skillful flattery or nonsense, supposedly came into use following an incident involving the head of the McCarthy family and the famous Queen Elizabeth I, ruler of England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603.

It seems the queen sent the Earl of Leicester to seize Blarney Castle but the talkative McCarthy managed to keep stalling him. The queen grew exasperated by the earl's reports about the lack of progress in the matter and uttered something to the effect that these reports were all “Blarney.”

This is just one of several explanations for the legend.  The whole thing sounds sketchy, so I am going to invoke another word, “blasphemy,” and suggest this Blarney Stone idea is ridiculous.   For one thing, the particular rock that one kisses is identical to one thousand other rocks in the castle wall.  There are no distinguishing features to the Blarney Stone.  It is just a stupid rock like all the rest.  Even weirder, people are supposed to kiss the stone upside down.  If you don't believe me, a quick Google image search will turn up the necessary photographic evidence.

Truly, kissing the Blarney Stone is something of an ordeal.  First you lay on your back and hit the back of your head on stone for the effort.  Then you grip parallel metal bars with both hands.  Then some impatient Irish supervisor grabs your head and smashes your face against this rock and screams at you to kiss the d.mn thing.  Thanks to his shove, my face hit that rock so hard I thought my nose was broken.  It was the most painful kiss since Helen Stewart cut my lips with her braces in the Eighth Grade.

So here is my act of Blarney Blasphemy... I think the whole thing is a ridiculous tourist racket.  There, I said it.  No doubt my punishment will be swift; however it could hardly be any more painful than kissing that rock.

But you know what?  The Blarney Stone is one of the best tourist rackets I have ever visited.  There were tourist buses upon tourist buses upon tourist buses.  I think there were anywhere from 300 to 900 tourists wandering around the Castle grounds looking for a rock to kiss. 

And you know what?  I totally endorse a visit to Blarney Castle, but with one caveat.  I suggest you skip trying to kiss the Blarney Stone.   Marla and I discovered an incredible Forest/Garden right beside the castle.   This well-groomed forest had trails aplenty.  In addition to 'Powerscourt Estate' near Dublin, this forest was one of our two favorite spots on the trip.  It was the most enchanting place to walk imaginable.

There are paths touring the forest with signs pointing out the various attractions such as several natural rock formations with fanciful names such as Druid's Circle, Witch's Cave and the Wishing Steps.  There was a tunnel where your wish was granted if you walked the steps backwards with your eyes closed.  Trust me, that was a lot more fun than kissing the Blarney Stone.  This garden was pure magic.

Now let me tell you the sad thing about kissing the Blarney Stone.  Marla and I both complained about the early start time for our tour that day.  However, this turned out to be a hidden blessing because our tour bus was the first one there.  We kissed the Blarney Stone without any wait.  When we descended the castle steps, we were greeted by a line of tourists that stretched three hundred yards long.   The problem is that it takes each tourist half a minute to a minute to get into position to kiss the rock.  This slow process creates an endless line. 

I estimated those people would stand in that line for two hours in order to kiss the Blarney Stone, then leave immediately without seeing anything else.  Consequently they would never know that the true magic of Blarney Castle was that Magic Forest.  Oh well.  I consider myself fortunate to have been spared this misfortune.   Word to the Wise... skip the Blarney Stone, enjoy the Forest.

As tourist attractions go, another source of mythological nonsense is the Loch Ness Monster.   I actually researched the Loch Ness Monster once.  It is a very interesting story.  Feel free to read my review of how the tale began and how the hoax was eventually unraveled.  History of the Loch Ness Monster

I have to tell you, that Loch Ness story was the best thing to ever happen to this area.  In a manner similar to the Blarney Stone, countless people visit this lake as a sort of pilgrimage.  Marla and I did it back in 2010.  I recall just sitting on the grass for an hour waiting for that stupid monster to appear. 

People are so silly.  Count me as one of them.  I love the Loch Ness Monster story!  Until the Dracula legend came along, I assumed the Loch Ness Monster hoax was the greatest tourist racket in history.  Don't worry, we will get to Dracula shortly.

What is curious about the Loch Ness Monster is that people continue to try to out-do the crazy tale even to this day.  Here is a terrific Loch Ness story that you probably have never run across before.  It took place back in 1972.

By the way, no, I did not make this story up.  Do you think I am clever enough to write a story about how to catch a monster using 'hormone sex bait'?   Even I have my limits.   Yes, indeed, long-time readers of the Travel Newsletter will quickly conclude I am far too dull-witted to come up with a story this clever... unless, of course, kissing the Blarney Stone has magically amplified my powers.

The Body of Nessie Found!!    (April Fool's Day - 1972)

On the morning of Friday March 31, 1972, an eight-member team of scientists from Yorkshire's Flamingo Park Zoo was having breakfast in the dining room of the Foyers House hotel, on the shore of Loch Ness.  They were there on a joint mission with the Loch Ness Phenomena Bureau to prove the existence of a monster in the loch. They had developed a new form of "hormone sex bait" that they hoped would lure Nessie out of the depths.

As they dug into their bacon and eggs, the manager of the hotel approached them. Someone had just called, she said, to report seeing a "large hump" floating in the loch near the hotel. Intrigued, the team put down their knives and forks and walked outside. Sure enough, a large, dark object was bobbing up and down in the waves about 300-yards offshore.

Terence O'Brien, the leader of the team, immediately swung into action. He directed the team into their boat, and they headed out to investigate. Twenty minutes later, at around 9 a.m., they returned, dragging behind them a bizarre object. It appeared to be the dead body of the Loch Ness Monster.

Word Spreads

Within hours, news of the discovery had reached the rest of the world. Television news anchors solemnly informed their audiences that the Loch Ness Monster had been found, but was dead.  The frenzy was on.  Reporters rushed to the loch to get more details.

Local residents confirmed that something weird had been dragged out of the water. Robert MacKenzie, a 23-year-old Inverness musician, said, "I touched it and put my hand in its mouth. It's real, all right. I thought it looked half-bear and half-seal... green in color... with a horrific head like a bear with flat ears. I was shocked."

Other witnesses told reporters the creature had been between 12 and 18 feet in length and must have weighed up to 1½ tons. They said it had a green body without scales and seemed like a cross between a walrus and a seal.  What was curious was the strange appearance.  No one had ever seen an aquatic animal quite like this before. 

Eventually reporters contacted Don Robinson, Director of the Flamingo Park Zoo, who was stunned.  Based on the reports given to him by his team, this sounded like the Real Thing.  Robinson said, "I've always been skeptical about the Loch Ness Monster, but this is definitely a monster, no doubt about that. From the reports I've had, no one has ever seen anything like it before... a fishy, scaly body with a massive head and big protruding teeth."

The British press had a field day.  They dubbed the creature "Son of Nessie."  The next morning, April 1, the discovery made front-page headlines around the world.

The April 1, 1972 headline in the Los Angeles Times proclaimed 'Green and Scaly Monster Hauled out of Loch Ness'.

High-Speed Chase

Meanwhile, the creature itself was no longer at the Loch.  After dragging the carcass back to the shore, the scientists from the Flamingo Park Zoo had sent a telegram to their boss, Don Robinson, and had then quickly loaded the body into their truck and taken off. They intended to transport the monster back to the zoo for study.

Mrs. Margrete Good, manager of the hotel, later told the press, "The zoologists were thrilled to bits.  They said this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them."

But when the local Inverness police heard that the scientists had hightailed it with the Loch Ness Monster, they were infuriated.  These were English scientists, after all, removing Scotland's most famous lake monster — upon which depended a vast, lucrative tourist trade.  The value of this monster was virtually incalculable.

Immediately the police radioed their colleagues in the Fifeshire County police department, explained the situation, and asked them to chase down the fleeing truck and apprehend the monster-nappers.  They cited a 1933 Act of Parliament that prohibited the removal of "unidentified creatures" from Loch Ness.

Sirens wailing, five police cars sped off.  They soon caught up with the team of scientists.  The terrified zoologists readily cooperated with the angry police determined to rescue a national treasure.  They  pulled over to the side of the road.  Then they opened the back of the truck to show the officers what they were carrying.  Sure enough, according to the subsequent police report, lying inside the truck was a large "green and scaly" creature.  The monster had been recovered.

The police officers, not quite sure what to do next, radioed back to the station for advice.  They were told to take the monster to the nearest town, Dunfermline, where it could be examined by Scottish scientists.

The Monster Identified

In Dunfermline, the police searched around for an appropriate scientist to examine the creature.  They eventually persuaded Michael Rushton, general curator of the Edinburgh Zoo, to make a 20 mile drive and have a look at it.

When Rushton arrived, he walked slowly around the carcass a few times, poked it once or twice, and then announced his verdict.  It was indeed a strange creature, but it was no lake monster.  Instead, it was a bull elephant seal, whose natural home was the South Atlantic Ocean, thousands of miles away from Scotland.  Furthermore, the body showed signs of having been frozen for an extended period of time.

Rushton told the press, "It is a typical member of its species. It's about 3 to 4 years old... I have never known them to come near Great Britain.  Their natural habitat is the South Atlantic, Falkland Islands or South Georgia. I don't know how long it's been kept in a deep freeze but this has obviously been done by some human hand."



How a bull elephant seal came to be floating in Loch Ness remained a mystery until the next day, when a hoaxer stepped forward to confess.  John Shields, the Flamingo Park Zoo's education officer, admitted it was his doing.

Shields explained that an expedition to the Falkland Islands had recently brought the seal back to the UK.  It had lived briefly at the Dudley Zoo, but died soon after arrival.  When he learned of this, Shields realized it offered a golden opportunity to prank his colleagues, who he knew were about to go up to Loch Ness to search for the monster.

Shields gained possession of the elephant seal, shaved off its whiskers, padded its cheeks with stones, and kept it frozen for a week.  Then he dumped it in the Loch and phoned in a tip to make sure his colleagues found it.  He timed the prank so that news of the discovery of the Loch Ness Monster would make headlines on April 1 — April Fool's Day, which happened to also be his 23rd birthday (and possibly his last birthday).

Shields admitted sheepishly the joke got out of hand when his colleagues decided to remove the dead animal from Loch Ness and were chased down by the police.

He also noted that the creature wasn't quite as impressive as initial press reports had claimed.  It was only nine-feet long and weighed 350-pounds.  Still, it had been a very strange thing to find floating in the Loch.

Police Superintendent Inas McKay of Inverness gave the press the final, official verdict on the incident: "The case has been closed.  It's just an April Fool's Day joke."


Having determined that the dead animal was not the Loch Ness Monster, the police had no further interest in it.  So they returned the carcass to the team from the Flamingo Park Zoo. The team brought the seal back to the zoo, where they put it back on ice and displayed it to crowds for a few days before properly disposing of it.

But this wasn't quite the end of the story. The prank turned out to have unintended consequences for other visitors to the loch. Two weeks later, 28-year-old Norman Slater, a school teacher from Kenosha, Wisconsin, went on a fishing trip on the Loch. While floating along, he dipped his hand into the water. He later said that, as soon as he did so, he detected, by means of his extrasensory perception, the presence of six large creatures in the water — a family of Loch Ness Monsters.

Slater said that he saw a particularly vivid image of a creature 70-90 feet in length, with a large neck and a slim, worm-like body. Its bottom portion was white while its top was dark brown and scaly. He said the creatures "seemed to be just lying around on the bottom." Slater also claimed to see images of underground passageways connecting the Loch to the sea.

However, alas, Slater was a victim of bad timing. He complained that, despite the obvious scientific importance of his vision, because of the recent April 1st prank he couldn't find any reporters willing to take him seriously.  Slater could barely contain his disappointment.

Rick Archer's Note:  

Now, aren't you glad I shared that story?  Can you imagine those poor well-meaning scientists fearing for their lives when five police cars with sirens wailing tracked them down?   And to think their own colleague set them up for this terror and subsequent humiliation!   That is just too funny for words.  It sounds like something out of a Monty Python skit.  Or better yet, another scene in 'A Fish Called Wanda', my favorite funny movie.

Okay, now it is time for the Main Event.


First the Blarney Stone... myth and travel racket.  Then the Loch Ness monster... myth and travel racket.

So now it is time for Dracula.  You know what?  I am going to let you in a little secret.  Dracula is a myth too.  But as for travel racket, hmm, there's a good story there.   And that unusual story is the reason for this Pulitzer-nominated article.

First of all, perhaps I should reveal my motives.   I would like lots of people to come with Marla and me to Transylvania on this weird 'Dracula on the Danube' river cruise over Halloween 2018.   This promises to be a very interesting trip.

So I thought that if I shared a little background information, I might tweak your interest and persuade a few people to join us.

As most people know, Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel written by Irish author Bram Stoker.  It introduced the legend of Count Dracula, and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy.... stakes through the heart, invisible in mirrors, must be invited into a room, garlic repels, etc.

The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania (Northern Romania near the Black Sea) to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse.  The book contains exciting details of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.  The beautiful Mina is the target of Dracula's desire.  Her fiancé Jonathan Harker and Professor Van Helsing are desperate to save her.  

Dracula is a very persuasive monster.  He has no need for hormone sex bait.  Just his irresistible stare alone is enough to make any woman vulnerable to his approach.

Anyone who has ever read Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' will agree this is the creepiest, most terrifying horror story ever written.  This eerie tale had me biting off every single finger nail on both hands.  I was so nervous I almost started on my toe nails.  I absolutely could not put this book down. 

So what do you suppose Dracula has in common with the Blarney Stone and the Loch Ness Monster?  This isn't that tough a question, so think about it for a moment.



Think Think Think

Think some more

No, the answer is not that it is a myth like the Blarney Stone and the Loch Ness Monster; I already told you that.

However, if you guessed that Dracula is Romania's Numero Uno Tourist Attraction, ta da, go to the head of the class! 

Dracula easily rules at the top of the European monster food chain.   He easily beats out Frankenstein, the werewolves, the banshees, and the ghosts that haunt every castle.  Sexy, dark, mysterious, deadly, sinister... more than 200 films have been made and 1,000 novels have been written about Dracula and vampires in general.  Writers such as Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer and Anne Rice have helped the vampire legend grow.

Oddly enough, as famous as Dracula is in the West, Dracula was unknown in Romania until 1990.  Blame it on Joseph Stalin and the oppressive rule of communism.   Let us never forget how fortunate we are to live in America.  Paradoxically, Stoker's classic was virtually unknown in Romania since the communist regime would not allow a translated copy within in its borders. 

Even before the fall of the Iron Curtain, 'Dracula Tourism' presented Romania with a dilemma.  Transylvania was identified in the book as the homeland of Dracula.  Every gypsy on the European continent felt compelled to make a pilgrimage.   On one hand, Dracula was Romania's unique selling point.  The notion of Dracula had considerable potential to be exploited for economic gain. 

On the other hand, the whole notion of vampires, dark medieval forests, and the supernatural was starkly at odds with Romania's self-image as a modern, un-superstitious European state. 

For fifty years, the communist regime advocated a Godless Material World that left little tolerance for supernatural nonsense such as vampires.  Therefore, during the communist period (up to 1989) the Romanian state did almost nothing to encourage such tourism.  On the other hand, the State reluctantly tolerated it. 

Under their nose, some discrete local initiatives were developed to cater to the teeming Dracula enthusiasts.  Certain men connived to build hotels in key locations and conduct tours through the rugged Transylvanian landscape.  These underground figures were almost as shadowy as Dracula himself.  Risking long stays in ice cold prisons, these entrepreneurs operated at the margins of legality in an unforgiving communist state.

In the post-communist period after 1989, the attempts to censor Dracula disappeared.  Since then, the private sector in Romania rose swiftly to exploit the commercial possibilities of the Count.  However, even to this day, the Romanian state remains ambivalent about Dracula and continues to be reluctant to encourage or promote 'Dracula tourism' on a large scale.  Proposed Dracula-themed amusement parks on a Disneyland scale have been nixed on several occasions.  Can you even imagine the Haunted Houses?  Or the castle for that matter.  For every Cinderella-style castle at Disneyland, how cool would an imaginary Dracula castle be?   As such, Romania's dilemma with Dracula remains unresolved.  Hmm.  They might want to reconsider.  I for one would enjoy visiting that Haunted House. 

Dracula presents Romania with a unique dilemma.   On the one hand, it has the potential to generate much needed foreign currency through tourism, but on the other hand it fundamentally collides with Romania's sense of its own political and cultural identity.

Fortunately, that seems to be changing.  Ever since the fall of the Iron Curtain, knowledge of the classic Bram Stoker novel has circulated among the Romanian people.   They take pride in their mythical hero... as well they should!  Slowly but surely Dracula's status as a folklore figure has become just as popular as say Robin Hood and Davy Crockett in other lands. 

Oddly enough, after doing a little Internet poking around, I discovered that Bram Stoker never actually visited Romania.  By relying on traveler's accounts, Stoker produced a vivid portrayal of a sinister, backwards region where the forces of evil ran wild.

As Jonathan Harker, the main character, narrates, "Before my arrival, I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the uncharted regions of the Carpathians.  I dare to enter the blackness.

In other words, Harker's journey to spooky Transylvania was akin to a trip to Skull Island, home of King Kong.  Only the brave would dare such a trip into the heart of darkness.

Stoker was a proud participant in an unusual English literary tradition.  During the 1880s and 1890s, authors such as H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H. G. Wells wrote adventure tales in which fantastic creatures threatened the British Empire.  Invasion literature such as the creepy H.G. Wells tale 'War of the Worlds' was a perfect example of this curious literary trend.   

Bram Stoker was the business manager for a popular theater in London.  Stoker wrote sensational stories in his spare time.   Obviously,

'Dracula' was his tour de force.  Stoker spend considerable time researching his book.   Before writing 'Dracula', Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard's 1885 essay "Transylvania Superstitions" which included content about a vampire myth. 

So how Did Bram Stoker come with the name 'Dracula'?

As we shall see, this is a very hotly debated subject.  Due to the lack of documentation, many historians assumed that a larger than life historic figure from Romania known as 'Vlad III Dracula', aka Vlad the Impaler, was the model for Stoker's Count. 

This man was the second son of Vlad Dracul, hence the name 'Vlad III'. 

To make a long story short, Vlad III became ruler of an area that adjoined Turkey.  Powerful Turkish Ottoman ruler Mehmed decided to attack.  When Mehmed entered the town of Targoviste at the end of June 1462, the Ottomans were horrified to discover a "forest of the impaled" (thousands of stakes with the carcasses of executed people).

The sultan's army viewed large stakes upon which twenty thousand men, women, and children had been spitted.   The Turks were dumbfounded when they saw the multitude of men on the stakes.  There were infants too affixed to their mothers on the stakes, and birds had made their nests in their entrails.  Horrified, the sultan's army was more than happy to retreat back to the safety of Turkey.

Let's face it... 20,000 victims impaled on stakes?  Unbelievable!!  Vlad's reputation was well-known in certain European circles.  Indeed, books describing Vlad's cruel acts were among the first bestsellers in the German-speaking territories.  It stands to reason that Vlad's reputation for cruelty and his family's unusual name may have given rise to the name of the vampire Count Dracula.  Since 'Dracula' is a very unusual name, surely there was a link.  

However, only recently has this theory been discounted. 

The truth is that there is no evidence that Bram Stoker was even aware of the name Vlad III.  Don't worry, we will get back to Vlad the Bad soon enough.   But for now, let's concentrate on how Stoker came up with the name.

The key year was 1890.   Stoker was the business manager at London's Lyceum Theater.  The theater was owned by Henry Irving, a talented actor who starred in many of the plays.  Henry Irving was an intense man.  It was Irving's unusual personality as well as his interest in the macabre that likely made him the eventual role model for the character of Dracula.

Stoker had become acquainted with Arminius Vambery, a Hungarian professor who took an interest in a horror play known as "The Dead Heart."   In April 1890, Stoker wrote about the night he and his friend Henry Irving dined with Vambery after a performance.  Transylvania had once been a part of Hungary.  During this dinner, the Hungarian-born Vambery regaled Stoker and Irving with tales of Transylvania folklore.  Perhaps Vambery's tales included Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) and his atrocities. If so, these tales surely set Stoker's imagination aflame.  However, later research would cast doubt on this likelihood. 

What is clear is that Arminius Vambery got Stoker very interested in Transylvania. 

Shortly after his fascinating dinner with Vambery, Stoker vacationed  in Whitby, England, in the summer of 1890.  While at Whitby, Stoker came across a copy of William Wilkinson's book 'An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia', territories which were part of Transylvania.   Stoker copied several sections of the book into his notes.  Wilkinson's book contains references to multiple warlords named Dracula, and some of the sparse details on one such Dracula make it into Stoker's text - that he crossed the Danube to attack Turkish troops and had some success.  However, that is the extent of it.  There is no reference to a "Vlad," no mention of a nickname Tepes or "the Impaler," nor any detailing of the Impaler's legendary atrocities.

More likely, Stoker borrowed "scraps of miscellaneous information", according to one expert, about this bloodthirsty tyrant of Wallachia.  Nor does there exist a single comment about Vlad in Stoker's working notes.  'Dracula' scholar Elizabeth Miller remarked that aside from the identical name and some brief mention of Romanian history in the novel, the background of Stoker's Count bears no resemblance to that of Vlad III Dracula.

Elizabeth Miller warned that we can't assume that Stoker's notes are the end-all, be-all of the creation of Dracula, but they do provide the only factual information we currently have about Stoker's research.  Best of all, Stoker's personal notes offer strong hints exactly where Stoker got the name "Dracula."

So why did Stoker choose the curious name of Dracula? 

Well, we can infer that from his own notes.  He copied information from a footnote from Wilkinson's book that read in his own notes, "DRACULA in Wallachian language means DEVIL," using those capital letters.  In addition, 'Dracula' meant  'Son of the Dragon.  The footnote explained that Wallachians gave the name "Dracula" to people who were especially courageous, cruel, or cunning.  Stoker chose the name, it appears, because of its devilish associations, not because of the history and legends attached to its owner.

These facts directly contradict the Urban Legend.  Think about it.  You know that Bram Stoker's character Count Dracula was loosely based on Romania's Vlad the Impaler.   For that matter, EVERYONE knows that Vlad and Count Dracula are linked.  That's what I thought and I bet my Readers thought the same thing as well.  We all believe that. 

But it isn't true!!

It disappoints me terribly to say this, but it is doubtful that the Impaler was the basis for the famous vampire.  Boo hoo!  This hurts as bad as finding out there is no Santa Claus.  Maybe even more.  Admit it... Dracula and Vlad the Impaler were meant for each other!!

So where exactly did the bogus Urban Legend come from?  Who turned Vlad III into the supposed inspiration for Count Dracula? 

There is no dark conspiracy here.  It happened for two reasons.  One, many of Stoker's notes were more or less misplaced in the attic of Stoker's great-grandson and not discovered until 2011.   Two, in the absence of Stoker's notes, the connection between Vlad Dracula and Count Dracula made perfect sense. 

It stands to reason that scholars have connected Count Dracula with the Wallachian warlord Vlad III, nicknamed "Vlad Tepes" or, in English, "Vlad the Impaler." After all, Vlad III was a member of the House of Dracula, and is one of a handful of historical figures whose title is rendered as "Voivode (Warlord) Dracula" in English-language texts.  Plus they both had that curious obsession with stakes. 

Vlad the Impaler's official name was 'Dracula'.   Wouldn't a figure known as "the Impaler" make a perfect vampire?  The number of movies that treat the life of Vlad Tepes as Dracula's backstory are an indication of just how neatly the historical warlord and the fictional vampire fit together in some people's minds. 

Nor has Hollywood helped one bit to clear up the confusion.  In 2014, the movie 'Dracula Untold' was released.   Here's the synopsis:

"As his kingdom is being threatened by the Turks, young prince Vlad Tepes must become a monster feared by his own people in order to obtain the power needed to protect his own family, and the families of his kingdom."

As we know, if Hollywood says it's so, then it must be true. 

Here is something else that is interesting.  After visiting websites that debunk the connection between Bad Vlad and the Dark Count, I found comments below that argue with the experts.  In other words, The People want the connection to stand! 

And there is more dissent.  Some scholars have argued, quite bizarrely, that the absence of pertinent details from Vlad Tepes' life and legends in the text of 'Dracula' is somehow evidence of Stoker's knowledge of the tales and his desire to explicitly fictionalize them.  This is another example of the deep-seated desire to keep the two figures linked.

Ask any guy on the street.  "Maybe they weren't linked, but they shoulda been!!"

Without a doubt, the power of this yearning can be traced to a 1972 bestseller that gave rise to the Urban Legend.  The book that popularized the Vlad-Dracula link was 'In Search of Dracula', written by Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu. 

This book became a boffo bestseller that caught the public mood in America at a moment when popular interest in Vampires was on the increase.  'In Search of Dracula' lit a bonfire.  Shortly thereafter, one Seventies vampire movie after another hit the silver screen.

Salem's Lot (good one!!)
The Vampire Lovers
Twins of Evil
Dracula (excellent remake with Frank Langella)
The Night Stalker
Dark Shadows (remake of the popular 60's TV show)
Love at First Bite
Vault of Horror
Fright Night  (1985, my absolute favorite vampire movie!)


'In Search of Dracula' was one heck of a hot book for a while.   The book assured us all that it was telling 'the true story' behind the legend of Dracula - a biography of Prince Vlad of Transylvania, better known as Vlad the Impaler. 

This book was a fantastic exploration of the figure the vampire legend was supposedly built upon.  If you thought Caligula was a sicko, well, this book make about Vlad the Impaler made Caligula seem tame.  Vlad the Impaler repelled the invasion of the King of the Ottoman Turks by placing the heads of 20,000 Turkish prisoners on stakes.  

Bad Vlad was Very Bloody... you know there was something seriously evil, sinister and twisted about this dude... and the book promised us it was all true. 

In fact, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu liked the 1972 book so much he attempted to make Vlad a national hero.  Don't laugh.  If the national hero of Sicily can be the blood-soaked Marlon Brando Godfather, making Vlad the national hero of Romania made perfect twisted sense as well.  However, Ceausescu was not at all pleased when his own people began to refer to him as 'Dracula'.  Now the joke wasn't so funny anymore.

As the inconvenient facts began to leak out, years later both McNally and Florescu eventually stepped back from their claim that Vlad and his atrocities had actually inspired the story of the wicked Count Dracula. 

However, the damage had been done!! 

Count Vlad and Count Dracula had permanently become fused and confused in the public mind. 

Along the way, Vlad's Castle, i.e. Bran Castle in Transylvania's Carpathian Mountains, was incorrectly identified as the inspiration for Count Dracula's Transylvanian castle.   Sure, why not?  Why not just keep adding to the myth?

This was perfect!  Now we had a real-life Transylvanian castle at the center of this brooding fantasy.   Transylvania, the mysterious Land of Evil!   Transylvania was perfect since no one in the world had actually ever been there.  What you don't know becomes perfect fodder for the imagination. 

What other region could surpass the mystical visions of shrouded, misty forests with shadowy demons and vicious wolves hiding behind every tree?   Or driverless coaches pounding up the treacherous trail towards the foreboding castle perched high upon a cliff?  And what about that ominous black-coated figure stalking across moonlit cemeteries with wolves howling in the dark?

Once Bran's Castle was associated with the mythology, well, now we were getting somewhere.  A tourist attraction was born!   Never mind that Bran Castle had NOTHING to do with Count Dracula.  How inconvenient.  Soon every tour brochure on the planet had permanently linked this innocent castle with the dark Vampire legend.  Tsk Tsk.

But you know what, I'm with Hollywood.  I say why let the truth get in the way of a great yarn?   I mean, since everyone wants to pretend that Vlad the Bad and Count Dracula are one and the same, what is stopping us from nominating Vlad's ancient Castle as the Shrine to the Vampire Empire!  Who would object?

It was pretty cool in a way.  One hundred years had passed since the publication of 'Dracula'.   In shocking fashion, suddenly the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989.

One hundred years after its publication, Bram Stoker’s novel was able to become a major blessing for Romania.  Starting in the 1990s, the vampire legend attracted tourists from around the world in much the same way Salem Village became a wiccan shrine in Massachusetts.

So what's the real story about Transylvania?   Over the years, Transylvania, an obscure mountainous region in north central Romania that has changed little since the days of Bram Stoker, has become synonymous with the name Dracula. 

For one hundred years, Bram Stoker’s novel has fed everyone's imagination with the tales of a predatory vampire who lived in a ruined castle up high in the Carpathian mountains.  The vampire's castle was said to be surrounded by lonely, spooky forests.  Although most of the action unfolds in Victorian London, it is the description of Transylvania...dark, wild, untouched by science and modernity... that is the novel’s most evocative achievement.  After Stoker got through describing Transylvania, it was not at all difficult to imagine demons and werewolves baying at the moon throughout the region.  Stoker's depiction of this frightening, misunderstood region was awakened our fears.  Here was the land that God had offered to the Devil.  It was hidden in a remote, unexplored recess of Europe that no one dared enter.

The novel gave rise to a thriving vampire subculture.  At its center stands Transylvania, the natural home for the supernatural.  And through the circuitous process known as modern myth-making, today we have Bran Castle which serves as the symbolic link between the natural and the supernatural. 

Dracula on the Danube

In October 2018, Marla and I are taking a river cruise on the Danube River that originates in Bucharest, Romania.   Marla and I have signed up for a three-day tour that takes us to visit the horrors of Bran Castle on Halloween. 

So let's have some straight talk.  You all know the truth that Bran Castle and Bram Stoker are not related.  However, on the other hand, every person and their uncle could care less.  We all like pretending that Vlad and the Count are one and the same.  It makes the legend more fun.  Since it is all mythology to begin with, there seems to be a worldwide movement to expand the mythology.

So, yes, I openly admit that Bran Castle is Romania's answer to the Blarney Stone myth and the Loch Ness Monster myth.  But just because Bran Castle is the newest European tourist racket doesn't keep it from being fascinating. 

You see, I believe that Bran Castle has magnetic properties.  In my mind, Bran Castle is the lighthouse that calls unusual people from every corner to come celebrate Halloween in Romania, the birthplace of the greatest monster myth in literary history. 

Indeed, I anticipate every person on the planet who loves Halloween will feel the magnetic tractor beam emanating from Bran Castle on Halloween.   By silent acclaim, Bran Castle has been granted celebrity status by the masses of people who love the Bram Stoker novel.  It may not be the true shrine, but it is the designated shrine.  Like Bethlehem on Christmas, people are drawn to Bran Castle on Halloween.  It is the place to be. 

I am talking about 'interesting people', you know, the kind of people who stay hidden most of the time, but show up for strange events like this. 

Maybe you guys don't know us very well.  Our two favorite shows are 'Game of Thrones' and 'Walking Dead'.  This trip is right up Mystery Alley for us.

I of course will dress as Dracula.  I can't wait!!  I have already begun to file down my incisors and work on my Transylvanian accent.  Marla will come as the dark-haired Elvira clad in dark robes that will both reveal the glory of her ample curves and her macabre personality as well.  If you haven't guessed by now, Marla and I intend to be just as weird as everyone else.  It should be a very interesting trip.

One more thing.  Marla and I are not alone in our oddity.  Since I first announced this trip, in the space of a two weeks, 10 people have signed up to join us on this adventure.   That speaks to the unusual nature of this trip.



Dear Travel Friends,

Rick and I invite you to join us on a spectacular summer trip in 2017.  
We will be taking a 12 Night Cruise Adventure around the British Isles aboard the Caribbean Princess, June 6th - June 18th.   With every passing year our cruise adventures have taken us to more glorious destinations. This year's cruise continues that tradition. Our embarkation port is London, England.

We have reached that time in our lives that we feel it is time to explore the world, while we are still able. This cruise is definitely on my bucket list and I know others within our travel family agree.

Our journey includes breathtaking scenery filled with rolling green hillsides and pastures, dramatic coastlines with craggy, seaside cliffs and lakes that offer majestic vistas.  We will explore medieval castles, quaint villages and seaports, and elegant countryside mansions that house lush gardens.

We will visit the world's greatest historical landmarks in Western Europe--Westminster Abbey , Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Blarney Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, the Beaches of Normandy, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

This trip has everything - stunning natural beauty, rich culture and tradition, history and, best of all, friendship.  Please come and share our adventure as we sail across the magnificent North Sea.   Let's see the world together.

Marla Archer
713 862 2248




History and tradition greet you at every turn in London.  London is one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

If London contained only landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, it would still rank as one of the world's great destinations, but Britain's capital is much more. People come to glimpse the royals and stop by hot galleries; to take in theater and trendy shops; to sample tea and scones or cutting-edge cuisine. When you need a break from the action, pop into a pub, relax in a park—or take a walk and make London your own.

The south of England boasts a dramatic coastline that encloses some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. The landscape of hills and heaths, downs and forests, valleys and dales, is without rival.

Southampton serves as your gateway to the countryside - and to a wide variety of historic sites, national landmarks and charming.  London is a two-hour drive from Southampton by modern highway.

The United Kingdom's premier passenger ship port, Southampton was home for many years to the great transatlantic liners of yesteryear.

Points of Interest:

Buckingham Palace

The Queen's official London residence, Buckingham Palace, found at the end of the tree-lined Mall, is protected by imposing iron gates, through which you can glimpse the red-jacketed Royal Guard.

It has been the official London residence of Britain’s monarchy since 1837. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to live there.  Buckingham Palace was originally a grand house built by the Dukes of Buckingham for his wife.  George IV began transforming it into a palace in 1826. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms including 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.

Westminster Abbey

This stunning Gothic building has been the setting for Royal weddings and coronations since 1066. It is home to the 'Tomb of the Unknown Warrior', representing the thousands killed in World War I.

It is one of the oldest buildings in London and one of the most important religious centers in the country.  The Abbey was built by Edward the Confessor, and William the Conqueror was crowned in it on Christmas Day.  Many kings, queens and famous people are buried or commemorated at Westminster Abbey.  Its founder, Edward the Confessor, was made a saint after his death and he is buried in a special chapel dedicated to him. National figures including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Sir Isaac Newton, Rudyard Kipling, Clement Attlee, and William Pitt are buried here.

Big Ben/Parliament Buildings

The Houses of Parliament, both the House of Commons and House of Lords, is the home of British politics. An elaborate Gothic building, it is also the site of London's much-loved time-piece, Big Ben.

The Houses of Parliament features three main towers.  Of these, the largest and tallest is the 323 foot Victoria Tower, which occupies the south-western corner of the Palace.

Big Ben is one of the most famous landmarks in the world.  It is the clock tower.  The name Big Ben is often used to describe the clock tower that is part of the Houses of Parliament.

Officially “Big Ben” does not refer to the clock tower but instead to the huge thirteen ton Great Bell located at the top of the 323 foot high tower.  Big Ben is situated on the banks of the River Thames on the north side of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London. Big Ben chimes every 15 minutes and the sound can be heard for a radius of up to 5 miles.

London Eye

A giant 21st-century Ferris wheel, visitors walk directly into the specially designed glass capsules located on the wheel's exterior, for a breath-taking ride that lifts you high above the city.

The London Eye stands on the South Bank of the River Thames in London, between Westminster and Hungerford Bridges.  It is the world’s highest observation wheel.  The London Eye (previously known as the Millennium Wheel) stands 443 feet high.  The London Eye can carry 800 passengers at a time on a thirty-minute ride.  From its highest point, it promises views of up to 25 miles.

Thames River Cruise

Cruise along the River Thames on a vessel that features a glass observation deck, as well as an open-air promenade, soaking up the spectacular views including Tower Bridge, and the London Eye.

The River Thames rises in the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire, and flows roughly eastwards passed Oxford (where it is know as the River Isis), until the Chilterns and on through London to the North Sea.  The river has been an important trade and transport route since prehistoric times.

A true archeological mystery, this mythical monument is thought to be over 5,000 years old, and holds spiritual meaning for many. Visitors can walk around the giant stones, some over 24 feet tall.
Stonehenge is the most famous prehistoric monument in Britain.  It is a circle of stones.  Stonehenge is situated on Salisbury Plain the county of Wiltshire.

Windsor/Windsor Castle

Medieval Windsor Castle is a favorite residence of Queen Elizabeth II, and was built after the Norman Invasion by William the Conqueror. The nearby town boasts quaint Georgian shops, houses and inns.  Windsor Castle has been a royal residence for over 900 years.  The royal standard flies from the round tower of the Castle when the Queen is in residence.  It was built by the Normans from timber and later rebuilt in stone.


Home to a 13th-century Gothic-style cathedral, which boasts a 400-foot spire and a copy of the Magna Carta, the town itself features black-and-white, half-timbered houses and quaint, narrow streets.

Salisbury is a medieval cathedral city in the southern English county of Wiltshire. It’s 9 miles south of the iconic prehistoric stone circle at Stonehenge, which stands on the grassland of Salisbury Plain. The city’s ornate 13th-century cathedral has a 123m spire, a working 14th-century clock and an original copy of the Magna Carta, a key document from 1215 A.D.

London Bridge

Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey

Big Ben

London Eye

Thames River



Windsor Castle




The British isle of Guernsey lies just eight miles off the coast of France. The second largest of the Channel Islands, Guernsey possesses a mild climate, breathtaking scenery and a peaceful, unspoiled ambience.

All these attributes combine to make it a popular destination for British and French vacationers. Once the haunt of sea dogs and pirates, St. Peter Port is one of the prettiest harbors in Europe.

Castles and forts dot the Guernsey coastline, including German fortifications from World War II. The Channel Islands were the only part of the United Kingdom to be occupied by the Nazis.

St. Peter Port is situated on a hillside overlooking the harbor of the Island of Guernsey. Rows of brightly painted houses, granite stairs and cobbled lanes climb the hill, providing great views of the port and the medieval castle

Note: St. Peter Port is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore by ship's tender.


Points of Interest:

Little Chapel

Visit the Little Chapel of Guernsey. Set in the countryside along a tree-lined path sits a miniature church. Made of simple materials, the church is beautifully decorated with pebbles, shells and pieces of colorful broken china.  A work of art and a labor of love, the Little Chapel is possibly the smallest chapel in the world. It was built by Brother Déodat who started work in March 1914. His plan was to create a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes in France. Guardianship of the Little Chapel now rests with Blanchelande Girls College which is run by a Charitable Trust. The Little Chapel is beautifully decorated with seashells, pebbles and colourful pieces of broken china and the College has an ongoing program of repairs and improvements.


The Gold and Silversmiths Workshops are situated in a converted barn which dates back to 1582. Take in a close-up view of the traditional craft being carried out before your very eyes.

Sausmarez Manor

Possibly one of the most interesting, beautiful and varied places on the island, encompassing many different things to see and do, including a lake-side café, Happy Hollow 9 hole Pitch & Putt course and an Edwardian Tin & Coppersmiths. The Subtropical Gardens feature many exotic species and are set in ancient woodland.

They are a partner garden of the Royal Horticultural Society and recommended by the Good Garden Guide, Which Garden and 1001 Gardens to Visit Before you die. The Sculpture Park has more sculptors exhibiting their works than anywhere else in Britain.

Enjoy a guided tour of the Sausmarez Manor and experience a time capsule of Guernsey's changing fortunes. View the Tapestry Room, containing King James II's wedding coat, and the Dining Room, which holds a collection of family portraits.

Sark and La Seigneurie

Board the ferry to Sark, one of the last feudal states in Europe. Take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and explore this island of steep cliffs and rocky coves. Continue on to the superb gardens surrounding La Seigneurie. Set within the grounds of a 17th century manor, the garden is considered one of the finest in the Channel Islands. Many unusual half hardy plants thrive within the walled garden, ensuring a colorful display from spring through to autumn.

Castle Cornet

Built in the 13th century to guard the harbor, the fortress boasts a long and bloody history. Take in the dark dungeons and witness the ancient weapons ranging from crossbows and catapults to muskets and cannons.  This 800 year old castle standing at the mouth of the harbor and much bigger than it first appears.

Explore five museums and four period gardens and feel free to enjoy the daily attractions which include a guided tour at 10.30am and the firing of the noon-day gun by scarlet clad gunners. Stay to see a Living History performance after the gun firing and look out for other activities and special events. The Castle is bigger than you might think so to make the most of your trip, allow at least three hours.

Just a short walk from the town center, the Castle not only offers a fascinating insight into hundreds of years of island history - but spectacular panoramic views back towards St Peter Port and out across our sister islands.

The story of the castle and other aspects of Guernsey's past can be found in the five museums housed within the Castle. These comprise of The Story of Castle Cornet, 201 Squadron (RAF) Museum, Maritime Museum, Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum and Royal Guernsey Militia Museum.

German Occupation Museum and Underground Hospital

Located within walking distance of the island's airport, the German Occupation Museum provides a unique insight into life in Guernsey during the occupation from 1940 to 1945. The museum is complete with an authentic recreation of an occupation-era street, exhibitions on maritime history, and Second World War fortifications.  View a selection of musical instruments, uniforms, weapons and equipment. Continue on to the Underground Hospital. The complex contains a maze of tunnels which cover an area of about 75,000 square feet.

Victor Hugo's House

Victor Hugo came to Guernsey and was instantly captivated by the island. His home was Hauteville House, which remains today as it was left, allowing visitors to see his individual style of decoration.
Literary lovers can walk in the footsteps of one of the most celebrated authors of the 19th century. French author and poet Victor Hugo spent 15 years in exile in Guernsey from 1855 and the island provided the inspiration for many of his fine works, including Les Miserables and Toilers of the Sea.  Hugo fell in love with Guernsey and his island home,  Hauteville House, offers fans a chance to experience how he lived - and see where he wrote some of his most famous books and poems.

His writing room, the Crystal Room, is at the top of the eclectic house and has panoramic views across the ever-changing capital St Peter Port out to sea and across to his homeland, France.


Less than a square mile in area, Herm is the smallest of the Channel Islands. Travel to the island and see the Herm School and St. Tugual's Chapel. Enjoy the chapel's breathtaking stained glass.

Herm's scenic coastal paths can be walked in their entirety within a leisurely couple of hours.  The gently undulating route takes you across a common to the stunning Shell Beach, with its clear waters and sand that is made of millions of tiny shell fragments, which give the beach its name.  A little further around the coast is the pretty, sheltered cove Belvoir Bay.  


Little Chapel

Sausmarez Manor

Sark and La Seigneurie

Castle Cornet

German Occupation Museum and Underground Hospital

Victor Hugo's House





Founded in the 7th century by St. Fin Barre, Cork is your gateway to romantic Ireland. Stroll down narrow country lanes or see the Lakes of Killarney. The intrepid visitor may scale the narrow passages of Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. The region around Cork is also home to one of the densest concentration of prehistoric monuments in Western Europe.

In a land where fable and fact blend to become folklore, it was near Cork that the great Tuatha De Danaan, a race with magical powers, was driven underground by the conquering Celts.

Cobh was the single most important port of emigration from Ireland.

Note: Your ship will dock in Cobh which is about 15 miles from Cork

Points of Interest:

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork, Ireland and the River Martin. Though earlier fortifications were built on the same spot, the current keep was built by the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty, a cadet branch of the Kings of Desmond, and dates from 1446.

The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. Tourists visiting Blarney Castle may hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of eloquence. There are many versions of the origin of the stone, including a claim that it was the Lia Fial, a numinous stone upon which Irish kings were crowned.

Surrounding the castle are extensive gardens. There are paths touring the grounds with signs pointing out the various attractions such as several natural rock formations with fanciful names such as Druid's Circle, Witch's Cave and the Wishing Steps. The grounds include a poison garden with a number of poisonous plants, including wolfsbane, mandrake, ricin and opium, as well as cannabis. Blarney House, also open to the public, is a Scottish baronial-style mansion that was built on the grounds in 1874.

Blarney Woolen Mill Shop

This converted mill is Ireland's largest Irish gift store selling traditional Irish goods, including Waterford crystal, Irish linen, hand-loomed Donegal tweed, knitwear, bone china and Celtic brooches.

Blarney Woolen Mills was built in 1823. It was used mainly for spinning and weaving wool. The mill briefly closed for two years between 1973 and 1975, after which it was re-opened as an Irish heritage shop. It is located in the village of Blarney, County Cork, Ireland.

Kinsale or Youghal

Kinsale is a historic fishing port featuring a pretty harbor, along with many well-preserved, 18th-century houses. It was off the coast here that the Lusitania was torpedoed by a U-boat during World War I. Kinsale is a popular holiday resort for Irish and overseas tourists.  Leisure activities include yachting, sea angling, and golf.

The town also has several art galleries and a school of English. The town is compact with a quaint air of antiquity in the narrow streets. There is a large yachting marina close to the town center. The town is known for its restaurants, and holds an annual "Gourmet Festival".  Youghal is one of the only few medieval towns in Ireland that still has it walls.  It is one of the best preserved examples of a 13th century town in Europe.

St. Fin Barre's Cathedral

This French, Gothic-inspired cathedral designed by William Burgess was built on the site of Fin Barre's 7th-century monastic settlement. It boasts mosaics, rich carvings and medieval gargoyles.

Spiky spires, gurning gargoyles and elaborate sculpture adorn the exterior.  The grandeur continues inside, with marble floor mosaics, a colorful chancel ceiling and a huge pulpit and bishop's throne. Quirky items include a cannonball blasted into an earlier medieval spire during the Siege of Cork (1690).

Most of the cathedral's ostentation is the result of an architectural competition held in 1863 and won by William Burges. Once victory was assured Burges promptly redrew his plans – with an extra choir bay and taller towers – and his £15,000 budget went out the window. Luckily, the bishop appreciated such perfectionism and spent the rest of his life fundraising for the project. Local legend says that the golden angel on the eastern side will blow its horn when the Apocalypse is due to start.

House of Waterford Crystal

The manufacturer of glass has a long history in Ireland. Ireland's famed Waterford Crystal dates from 1783.  The range and reach of Waterford Crystal has flourished to global proportions, yet the heart and soul of the company remains in the city of Waterford, Ireland. You will find the House of Waterford Crystal, a cultural landmark and tourist destination that is also an industrious manufacturing facility and the birthplace of Waterford Crystal's finest works.

Using the traditional methods of mouth blowing, hand finishing, sculpting and engraving, the artisans of the House of Waterford Crystal melt over 750 tons of crystal per year to produce more than 45,000 high-end crystal creations. 

St. Colman's Cathedral

Built in 1868 and completed in 1915, ornate St. Colman's Cathedral is made of granite and limestone, and features elaborate stained glass windows. It boasts views of Cobh harbor.  Dramatically perched on a hillside terrace above Cobh, this massive French Gothic Cathedral is out of all proportion to the town. Its most exceptional feature is the 47-bell carillon , the largest in Ireland, with a range of four octaves. The biggest bell weighs over 7500 lbs.

Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park boasts stunning views of the countryside set against a backdrop of rugged mountain peaks, and covers 26,000 acres, while the lakes of Killarney are famous for their beauty.

The distinctive combination of mountains, lakes, woods and waterfalls under ever changing skies gives the area a special scenic beauty.  Killarney National Park was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1981 by UNESCO.

Muckross House

This delightful 19th-century manor house features a gorgeous sunken garden, folk museum and crafting workshop. The interior of the house features beautiful hand-made Victorian furnishings.

Muckross House is set against the stunning beauty of Killarney National park.  The house stands close to the shores of Muckross Lake, one of Killarney’s three lakes and famed world wide for their splendor and beauty.  As a focal point with Killarney National Park, Muckross House is the ideal base from which to explore this landscape.

Blarney Castle

Killarney National Park

Blarney Woolen Mill Shop

St. Colman's Cathedral in Kinsale

St. Fin Barre's Cathedral

Muckross House


This is Wild Wicklow, a spectacular area south of Dublin that Rick and Marla visited in 2010 (read story)



Dublin is a city which has experienced a renaissance. Today, this cosmopolitan city on the Liffey River is one of Europe's premier tourist destinations.  The capital of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin is an intimate place that is easy to explore.

Stroll past St. Stephen's Green or survey the gray, stone facades of Trinity College, Ireland's oldest university. The city is also remarkably well-preserved - every June 16, scholars retrace the paths of James Joyce's characters in the novel "Ulysses," set in Dublin on June 16, 1904.

Dublin possesses a storied history. A settlement has existed on the banks of the River Liffey for at least a millennium and a half. Succeeding waves of Gaelic, Viking, Norman and English invaders have left their mark on the city.

Points of Interest:

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Built in honor of Ireland's patron saint, St. Patrick's Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland. It is said to be one of the earliest Christian sites in Ireland where St. Patrick baptized converts.

St. Patrick's Cathedral is the second of the capital's two Protestant cathedrals. The other is Christ Church, and the reason Dublin has two cathedrals is because St. Patrick's originally stood outside the walls of Dublin, while its close neighbor was within the walls and belonged to the see of Dublin. The original building, dedicated in 1192 and early English Gothic in style, was an unsuccessful attempt to assert supremacy over Christ Church Cathedral.

At 305 feet, this is the longest church in the country, a fact Oliver Cromwell's troops—no friends to the Irish—found useful as they made the church's nave into their stable in the 17th century. They left the building in a terrible state; its current condition is largely due to the benevolence of Sir Benjamin Guinness—of the brewing family—who started financing major, restoration work in 1860.

Trinity College

Trinity College is Ireland's oldest university and one of the great universities of the world. Trinity College Library is the home to the Book of Kells.  Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I to "civilize" (Her Majesty's word) Dublin. Trinity is Ireland's oldest and most famous college.

The memorably atmospheric campus is a must; here you can track the shadows of some of the noted alumni, such as Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Bram Stoker (1847-1912), and Samuel Beckett (1906-89). Trinity College, Dublin (familiarly known as TCD), was founded on the site of the confiscated Priory of All Hallows. For centuries Trinity was the preserve of the Protestant Church; a free education was offered to Catholics—provided that they accepted the Protestant faith.  As a legacy of this condition, until 1966 Catholics who wished to study at Trinity had to obtain a dispensation from their bishop or face excommunication.

Guinness Storehouse and/or Visiting a Pub

Dublin has over 1,000 pubs and several hundred types of beers.  St. James's Gate Brewery, a brewery founded in 1759 in Dublin by Arthur Guinness, is today the largest brewer of stout. The Guinness Storehouse is Ireland's number one visitor attraction and tells the story of the "black stuff".  It was founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759, and at one time was the largest stout-producing brewery in the world.  It spans a 60-acre spread west of Christ Church Cathedral.

Not surprisingly, it's the most popular tourist destination in town—after all, the Irish national drink is Guinness stout, a dark brew made with roasted malt. The brewery itself is closed to the public, but the Guinness Storehouse is a spectacular attraction, designed to woo you with the wonders of the "dark stuff." In a 1904 cast-iron-and-brick warehouse, the museum display covers six floors built around a huge, central glass atrium.

Beneath the glass floor of the lobby you can see Arthur Guinness's original lease on the site, for a whopping 9,000 years. The exhibition elucidates the brewing process and its history, with antique presses and vats, a look at bottle and can design through the ages, a history of the Guinness family, and a fascinating archive of Guinness advertisements. 

The star attraction is undoubtedly the top-floor Gravity Bar, with 360-degree floor-to-ceiling glass walls that offer a nonpareil view out over the city at sunset while you sip your free pint.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle represents some of the oldest surviving architecture in the city, with its 13th-century record tower and State Apartments, once the residence of English viceroys.

Dublin Castle is the heart of historic Dublin.  In fact, the city gets its name from the Black Pool “Dubh Linn” which was on the site of the present Castle garden.

The Castle stands on the ridge on a strategic site at the junction of the River Liffey and its tributary the Poddle, where the original fortification may have been an early Gaelic Ring Fort.

A Viking Fortress once stood on this site - a portion of which is on view to visitors in the “Medieval Undercroft” which also includes the remains of the original 13th century Castle. 

The south range houses the magnificent State Apartments that were built as the residential quarters of the Viceregal court.  They are now the venue for Presidential Inaugurations, State Functions and Ireland’s Presidencies of the European Union.  The State Apartments, Medieval Undercroft and Chapel Royal are open to visitors.

Malahide Castle

From 1185 until 1973, Malahide Castle was the home of the Talbot family. Malahide Castle and Gardens is one of the oldest castles in Ireland, set on 260 acres, this magnificent & historic 12th century castle has been home to the Talbot family for over 800 years.  The castle was built around the original tower house which dates back to the 12th century. The great hall was built in the 15th century. The furniture, the reception rooms, the entry hallway, the corner towers and the plaster-work were all added in the 18th century and reflect the highest standards of the time. Admire the portraits from the National Portrait Collection which adorn and decorate many walls of the Castle.


A monastery set in a spectacular natural setting, Lonely Planet Ireland calls Glendalough "truly one of the most beautiful places in Ireland and a highlight of any trip to the island." 

Set in an area south of Dublin know as Wild Wicklow, Rick and I visited for an enjoyable afternoon in May 2010.  This lovely area was one of the real highlights of our trip.  (Read story

Glendalough (Gleann Dá Loch, “Valley of the Two Lakes”) is a fascinating monastic settlement in a spectacular natural setting just an hour south of Dublin. The monastery was founded by St. Kevin, a hermit monk who died about 618 AD.  The extensive ruins of Glendalough include several early churches, a graceful round tower, and various sites associated with the life of St. Kevin.

The area is ideal for walking at all levels, ranging from a short stroll around the ruins to demanding mountain hikes.


Powerscourt is set in the wild, untamed Wicklow Mountains. As one of the most beautiful country estates in Ireland, its grounds boast the highest waterfall in Ireland.

The gardens at Powerscourt were laid out over two main periods. Many of the people involved in their creation and development never saw the gardens completed in their lifetime. When the house was rebuilt in the decade after 1731, the surrounding grounds were also remodeled. The design reflected the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider landscape. And what a view it is!

To the North formal tree plantations framed the vista from the house, while a walled garden, fish pond, cascades, grottos and terraces lay to the South. Walks wound through the wooded grounds and a fine tree lined avenue was created. When you arrive at the tree lined avenue today, hundreds of beech trees will guide your visit.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Trinity College

Guinness Storehouse

During our 2010 visit to Dublin, we were joined by Bill and Sharon Shaw at the famous M.J. O'Neill Pub

Dublin Castle

Malahide Castle

Rick and Marla's 2010 visit to Glendalough





Liverpool is an important industrial port that grew to prominence as a result of trade with the Americas. That tradition continued in the '60s as the Beatles mounted the first wave of rock 'n' roll's "British Invasion".

Liverpool is perhaps most famous as the birthplace of the Beatles and draws thousands of music fans each year to its various attractions.

Actually, the city possesses cultural charms beyond the Beatles. Liverpool is home to two of the finest neoclassical buildings in Europe. At nearby Port Sunlight, magnate William Lever built a model industrial village and created the Lady Lever Gallery. The museum is home to a superb collection of English paintings and furniture.

Its historic waterfront, recognized as a World Heritage site, is a scenic reminder of its history as a globally important trade port at the height of the British Empire. Liverpool is also proud of its diversity and is home to two majestic cathedrals, an impressive 19th century synagogue and the oldest Chinatown in Europe.

Points of Interest:

  Beatles Story
The award-winning Beatles Story experience is a journey into the life, times and culture, including the Fab4D experience through the music of the Beatles and must-see, world-class special exhibitions.

Replicas of the Casbah, Mathew Street and The Cavern authentically capture the early 60s, allowing you to personally experience the very places that helped make The Beatles the greatest band in the world.  Creative, charismatic and eternally cool the Beatles Story tells the roller coaster journey of four lads who shook the world forever. Join The Beatles on their journey; first conquering Liverpool, and then the world, through immersive recreations of key locations from the band’s career including The Casbah Club, The Cavern Club, and Abbey Road Studios.

The Beatles Story is now also home to John Lennon’s Last Piano, which was heard on albums including “Walls and Bridges” and “Double Fantasy”, whilst it was also used to compose hits with David Bowie and Elton John. In addition to this, John Lennon: The New York Years 1971-1980 – a collection of famous photographs taken of John by his New York photographer and close friend, Bob Gruen – is also on display within The Beatles Story’s main exhibition.

  Albert Dock
In 1846, the Albert Dock was a working dock.  Albert Dock is one of Britain’s top heritage attractions, situated in a spectacular riverside setting as part of Liverpool's UNESCO designated World Heritage Site.

Designed by Jesse Hartley, it opened in 1846 and remained a fully working dock until closing in 1972. It later underwent a huge restoration program and was reopened as a visitor attraction in 1988 by HRH Prince Charles.  Today, Albert Dock houses the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings in the United Kingdom and is home to award winning visitor attractions including the Beatles Story, International Slavery Museum, Merseyside Maritime Museum and Tate Liverpool.  

Visitors can dine at a fine selection of family friendly restaurants suiting all palettes and budgets, including The Smugglers Cove, Gusto, Spice Lounge or What's Cooking? to name but a few.

There are also fabulous Dockside cafes including Tate Cafe or Rubens Coffee Shop or, if you're looking for something different, classic British fare at Docklands Fish & Chips, pancakes at La Crepe Rit or relax at a unique pay-per-minute cafe called Ziferblat.

Anglican Cathedral

Liverpool is home to ancient cathedrals, including the Anglican Cathedral, the largest in the UK, and Christ the King, a Roman Catholic basilica.  Keep an eye out for the following 10 points of interest which offer an insight into the rich history of the cathedral and the city itself.

1. The UK’s largest organ
2. The world’s heaviest bells --The Bartlett Bells - named after the local man who bequeathed them to the cathedral - are the heaviest and highest in the world
3. The Elizabeth Hoare Gallery
4. The “Kneeling Madonna”
5. The Great West window
6. A poignant memorial to Hillsborough victims
7. “The Welcoming Christ” -- Renowned sculptor Elisabeth Frink, who died in 1993, created this striking statue high above the West Door.
8. “The Good Samaritan”--Adrian Wiszniewski’s painting
9. The Tower
10. The Holy Spirit Chapel

Lake District: Windermere Lake
A cruise along Windermere Lake, England's longest lake, promises magnificent views of the town of Bowness, "the heart of the Lake District," mountain scenery, secluded bays and wooded islands.

The Lake District, a region and national park in northwest England, is a popular holiday destination. It’s known for its glacial ribbon lakes, rugged fell mountains and historic literary associations. Market towns such as Kendal, Keswick and Ambleside are bases for exploring the area and home to traditional inns, galleries of local art and outdoor equipment shops.

It's awash with outdoor opportunities, from lake cruises to mountain walks, but many people visit for the region's literary connections; William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Ransome and John Ruskin all found inspiration here.

Chester Cathedral

Chester is considered one of the UK's most beautiful cities, and one of the best-preserved, with some parts of the city walls dating back over 2,000 years.  Chester is a city in northwest England, founded as a Roman fortress in the 1st century A.D. It's known for its extensive, well-preserved Roman walls made of local red sandstone. In the old city, the Rows is a shopping district distinguished by 2-level covered arcades and Tudor-style half-timbre buildings. A Roman amphitheater, with ongoing excavations, lies just outside the old city's walls

Steam Railways

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the world's first scheduled and ticketed inter-city railway in which all the trains were hauled solely by steam locomotives. Today, several steam locomotives travel along Liverpool railways.  The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) was a railway opened on 15 September 1830 between the Lancashire towns of Liverpool and Manchester in the United Kingdom.

It was the first railway to rely exclusively on steam power, with no horse-drawn traffic permitted at any time; the first to be entirely double track throughout its length; the first to have a signalling system; the first to be fully timetabled; the first to be powered entirely by its own motive power; and the first to carry mail. 

Conwy Castle

Edward I began construction of Conwy Castle in 1283 as part of his campaign to secure Wales for the English crown.  Conwy Castle dominates the mouth of the River Conwy and the medieval walled town of Conwy in North Wales like a huge goliath and serves as the major tourist attraction in the county of Conwy.

Today the castle is one of the best preserved castles in the whole of North Wales.
 The castle is almost unique in the fact that the old town walls remain almost entirely intact and can still be walked on today. Considering the military action it has seen over the years the castle remains in a remarkably good state of repair. 

The castle consists of a large curtain wall built on a natural rock formation lending it natural height above the town. The wall consists of eight circular towers with four smaller towers providing further height.  Inside the castle the old buildings are almost completely gone however there is enough remaining that a picture of what life inside Conwy Castle was once like can still be gained.

Liverpool Wheel

Beatles Story

Albert Dock

Anglican Cathedral

Downtown Liverpool

Lake District: Windermere Lake

Chester Cathedral

Steam Railways

Conwy Castle




The capital of Northern Ireland - part of the United Kingdom - Belfast has experienced a renaissance since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that promised an end to the decades-old "Troubles" between Catholics and Protestants. Stretching along both sides of the River Lagan, this graceful city of Victorian and Edwardian buildings has become a cosmopolitan tourist destination. Once a major industrial center, Belfast is also your gateway to the rich, Irish countryside of Counties Antrim and Down.

Belfast was an industrial giant in the 19th century, famed for its linen and its shipyards. Explore this exuberant city, marvel at the Giant's Causeway or shop for superb Irish linens.

Belfast has something for everyone -- whether it is leisurely shopping or a night on the town. Golf enthusiasts will enjoy the beautiful golf courses around town, and serious shoppers will feel at home on Lisburn Road. A trip to Ireland would not be complete without visiting a traditional Irish pub, such as The Rotterdam or The King's Head.

Points of Interest:

Giant's Causeway

Along the Antrim Coast is the world-renowned Giant's Causeway. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant's Causeway is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World.  The Giant's Causeway lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim plateau in Northern Ireland. It is made up of some 40,000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea.

The dramatic sight has inspired legends of giants striding over the sea to Scotland. Geological studies of these formations over the last 300 years have greatly contributed to the development of the earth sciences, and show that this striking landscape was caused by volcanic activity during the Tertiary, some 50–60 million years ago.

Antrim Coast

The Antrim Coast in the north of Northern Ireland, is one of the most scenic coastlines in Britain and Ireland, with breathtaking landscapes, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and the dramatic cliff-side ruins of Dunluce Castle.  A large section of the road is winding trough the countryside, following the scenic coastline. Some parts are even built between large 100m high cliffs and the sea.

City Hall & Titanic Memorial
The Titanic Memorial, located on the east grounds of Belfast City Hall, honors those who died in the RMS Titanic disaster, and includes a list of all those who perished on April 15, 1912.  It was funded by contributions from the public, shipyard workers and victims' families, and was dedicated in June 1920. It is located on Donegall Square in central Belfast in the grounds of Belfast City Hall..

The memorial presents an allegorical representation of the disaster in the form of a female personification of Death or Fate holding a laurel wreath over the head of a drowned sailor raised above the waves by a pair of mermaids. It has been used as the site of annual commemorations of the Titanic disaster. It is now the centerpiece of a small Titanic memorial garden that was opened on 15 April 2012, the centenary of the disaster. Together with the garden, it is the only memorial in the world to commemorate all of the victims of the Titanic, passengers and crew alike.

Belfast Pubs

Belfast Pubs have been the cornerstone of Belfast life for centuries. Some have music, many have good food and all offer a great pint or a comforting hot whiskey and loads of craic (the term for fun and conversation in Irish). 

Smart and stylish, sports, live music, nightclub; whatever your taste in nightlife, this city has it in abundance. Punters are out in their droves most evenings in the city, sampling the best of what Belfast nightlife has to offer. Why not check out one of Belfast’s modern smart and stylish bars?  Alternatively you may prefer to while away the hours enjoying the food in the comfortable surroundings of the gastro pub. Whatever you seek, Belfast is happy to oblige.

Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens reflect Belfast's Victorian heritage, boasting two notable period buildings, a bowling green, a rose garden and assorted tropical plants and trees.

First established in 1828, the gardens have been enjoyed as a public park by the people of Belfast since 1895. There is an extensive rose garden and long herbaceous borders and the tree enthusiast can seek out the rare oaks planted in the 1880s, including the hornbeam-leafed oak. Situated near Queens University Belfast, the Botanic Gardens is an important part of Belfast’s Victorian heritage and a popular meeting place for residents, students and tourists.


Originally named Derry,
Londonderry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and lies on the west bank of the River Foyle. It features an almost completely preserved circuit of medieval walls.

A walk around the walls in Londonderry reveals a splendid city crammed full of history, heritage, interest and a vibrant cultural scene.
This is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe. The Walls were built during the period 1613-1618 by the honorable, the Irish Society as defense for early seventeenth century settlers from England and Scotland.

The Walls form a walkway around the inner city and provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance Style street plan to this day.

The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added - magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate.  The Walls vary in width between 12 and 35 feet. They are the most complete in Ireland and one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe. The city claims Europe’s largest collection of cannon whose origins are known precisely.

Carrickfergus Castle

Considered the first real Irish Castle, Carrickfergus was built in 1180 by the Norman John de Courcy to guard the approach to Belfast.  Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, on the northern shore of Belfast Lough. Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland.

For more than 800 years, Carrickfergus Castle has been an imposing monument on the Northern Ireland landscape whether approached by land, sea or air. The castle now houses historical displays as well as cannons from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

Giant's Causeway

Antrim Coast

Titanic Memorial

Belfast Pubs

Botanic Gardens


Carrickfergus Castle


Glasgow's stunning Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Scotland




Glasgow was Scotland's great industrial center during the 19th century. Today, the city remains the commercial and cultural capital of the Lowlands.  Lying on the banks of the River Clyde, Glasgow boasts some of the finest Victorian architecture in the entire United Kingdom, including the stately City Chambers. Elegant Princes Square offers excellent shopping, and among the host of museums and galleries, the Burrell Collection features a superb treasure trove of paintings and art objects.

The bonnie banks of Loch Lomond mark the beginning of the Scottish Highlands, which rise above the valleys of Glasgow and Edinburgh. From Edinburgh's fairy tale castle, walk down the Royal Mile through the medieval streets of Old Town, or explore the Georgian spendour of New Town, home of Sam Adams.

Note: Your ship docks in Greenock, which is approximately 45 minutes from Glasgow

Points of Interest:

Loch Lomond 

Lying on the Highland Boundary Fault, the loch is 24.5 miles long, it is the largest freshwater loch in Scotland and has more than 30 islands, the largest of which is Inchmurrin.

The Loch Lomond and Trossachs area of Scotland was awarded National Park status in July 2002. A popular leisure destination located between the lowlands of central Scotland and the Highlands. Explore the diversity of landscapes in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park which have inspired painters, musicians, artists and writers. Visit Loch Lomond -a loch for all seasons.
This stunningly beautiful and popular leisure destination has been featured in song and is Scotland's second largest freshwater lake, dotted with many islands.
  Glasgow Cathedral

The only cathedral in Scotland to have survived the Reformation intact, this 12th-century medieval church houses one of the finest post-war collections of stained glass windows in Britain.

Glasgow Cathedral was at the very heart of the early development of Glasgow as a city. Dedicated to St Kentigern, the first bishop of Strathclyde, the awe-inspiring edifice attracted countless pilgrims to his shrine.

Originally built in the 1100s, and substantially enlarged in the 1200s, it survived the Protestant Reformation of 1560 almost intact and stands today as the most complete medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland.

Transport Museum

Take the opportunity to climb aboard some of the exhibits to get a real feel of public transport or take a stroll along one of the museum's recreated streets dating back to the early 1900s.
The museum uses its collections of vehicles and models to tell the story of transport by land and sea, with a unique Glasgow flavor. Here you will find the oldest surviving pedal cycle and the finest collection in the world of Scottish-built cars, including such world famous makes as Argyll, Arrol Johnson and Albion.

The breadth of the collection is impressive, featuring all forms of transport from horse-drawn vehicles to fire engines, from motorcycles to caravans. Even toy cars and prams are included. In the Clyde Room are some 250 fascinating ship models, representing the gigantic contribution of the River Clyde and its shipbuilders and engineers to the world of maritime trade. F

rom the Comet of 1812 to fabulous builders models of the Hood, Howe, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth 2, the Clyde Room reflects the proud boast 'Clyde built'.

Inveraray Castle

Featuring four imposing conical spires, this 18th-century Scottish castle is the seat of the Duke of Argyll and houses a stunning collection of family portraits, artifacts and English china.

Inveraray Castle has been standing on the shores of Loch Fyne since the 1400s, although the impressive castle we know today was inspired by a sketch by Vanbrugh, the architect of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard in the 1700s. 

The garden is well worth a visit, regardless of the time year. The daffodils around Easter cover the policies with various shades of yellow, replaced by the vibrant reds, pinks and whites of the rhododendrons and azaleas that the West Highlands are famous for.


Known as Scotland's crossroads, this charming city is home to the popular and historic Stirling Castle, the imposing scene of royal coronations, weddings, baptisms and even murders.

With an utterly impregnable position atop a mighty wooded crag (the plug of an extinct volcano), Stirling's beautifully preserved Old Town is a treasure trove of historic buildings and cobbled streets winding up to the ramparts of its dominant castle, which offer views for miles around.

Clearly visible is the brooding Wallace Monument, a strange Victorian Gothic creation honoring the legendary freedom fighter of Braveheart fame. Nearby is Bannockburn, scene of Robert the Bruce's pivotal triumph over the English.

The castle makes a fascinating visit, but make sure you also spend time exploring the Old Town and the picturesque path that encircles it. Below the Old Town, retail-minded modern Stirling doesn't offer the same appeal; stick to the high ground as much as possible and you'll love the place.

Culzean Castle

Converted from a fortress by great Scottish architect Robert Adams in the 18th century, this splendid storybook castle is filled with architectural marvels and memorabilia.

Culzean Castle is the perfect place for a day out whether you're a keen walker, enjoy admiring gardens, have an interest in architecture or just enjoy soaking up some history.

Standing on a dramatic cliff top overlooking the Firth of Clyde, the castle has been associated with the Kennedy family since the 14th century and was converted by Robert Adam between 1777 and 1792.

Burrell Collection

In the heart of Pollok Country Park, this award-winning building houses a collection by artists including Rodin, Degas and Cezanne, as well as late medieval, Chinese and Islamic art.

In the heart of Pollok Country Park, this award-winning building houses a unique collection in a beautiful woodland setting. The collection is one of the greatest ever created by one person, comprising over 8000 objects.

Loch Lomond 

Glasgow Cathedral

Transport Museum

Inveraray Castle

Stirling Castle

Culzean Castle

The magnificent Culzean Castle is one of Glasgow's favorite attractions




Inverness is the port city in Northern Scotland where our ship will dock.  Some people may choose to stay in the city or perhaps take the tour to the inland site of Loch Ness.

is the northernmost city in the United Kingdom.  It dates back to the 6th century.  Inverness is one of Scotland's seven cities and sits in the south of the Highlands, on the banks of the River Ness.  Inverness

Crowned by a pink crenellated castle and lavishly decorated with flowers, Inverness is a thriving city with a rich variety of places to visit and things to do both in the city and around. The city boasts a number of historic buildings in the Old Town that can be appreciated while browsing city shops.

There is a great selection of places to eat and drink too with peaceful areas close to the city center for relaxing and a great variety of places to stay. The city itself is small, compact and easy to get around.

This thriving city offers a rich variety of things to do and see from shopping and culture to eating and drinking. There are many lovely riverside restaurants and bustling pavement cafes as well as a wide range of specialist retailers in the historic Old Town and Victorian Market while a great variety of popular High street names can be found at the Eastgate Center.

Keep in mind that Scotland is the Land of the Castles.  If you are fascinated by castles, you will be pleased to know the area around Inverness features several of Scotland's most famous ones.

Points of Interest:

  Loch Ness

In 1933, an enterprising editor in Inverness enlivened a slow news week with the story of an odd sighting in Loch Ness. The legend grew overnight - and today individuals still scan the dark waters of the Loch for a sight of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Legend goes back as far as the 6th century and insists that the celebrated Loch Ness Monster inhabits a cave beneath the picturesque ruins of Urquhart Castle.  Welcome to Invergordon, your gateway to Loch Ness and that area of the Highlands known as the "Great Glen."

Loch Ness is rumored home of the legendary "Nessie."  Loch Ness is Scotland's second largest lake (Loch Lomond is the largest), but it is definitely Scotland's most famous lake thanks to the greatest myth in modern times.

Everyone has heard of the legend of the Loch Ness Monster, often called Nessie or Niseag in Gaelic. Rumors of a mysterious creature living in the lake have been around for centuries (with the earliest account being attributed to a record of the life of St. Columba in the 6th century).  It was not until the mid-1900s that the legend of a plesiosaur-like animal living in the lake spread outside of Scotland.

Since then, there have been about 10,000 reported Nessie sightings. Many other lakes have also claimed to have their own monsters, including one in Japan and another in Turkey.  Regardless of whether or not there is a monster living in Loch Ness, the legend has become a part of the local culture. In 2003, a group called the South Loch Ness Heritage Group was founded to promote and preserve local culture through exhibitions, lectures and other activities.

Even if you do not see the Loch Ness Monster on your visit, the beauty of the lake and the Scottish Highlands should make up for the disappointment. This region of great natural beauty is home to many museums, moors and picturesque villages.

Rick Archer's Note:  Marla and I visited Loch Ness in 2010.  In 2013, I wrote an extensive story on the origins of the Loch Ness Monster legend.  It is a fascinating tale that suggests there might actually be something to the existence of a serpent (Read Story)

  Urquhart Castle

The jagged ruins of Urquhart Castle, once one of the largest strongholds of medieval Scotland, is an impressive structure overlooking Loch Ness.  The magnificently situated Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness, remains an impressive stronghold despite its ruinous state.

Urquhart was once one of Scotland’s largest castles. Its remains include a tower house – the most recent building on the site – that commands splendid views of the famous loch and Great Glen.

Urquhart witnessed considerable conflict throughout its 500 years as a medieval fortress and its history from the 1200s to the 1600s was particularly bloody. Following the invasion of King Edward I of England in 1296, it fell into English hands and was then reclaimed and lost again.

In the 1300s this castle figured prominently in the Scots’ struggle for independence and came under the control of Robert the Bruce after he became King of Scots in 1306.  In the 1400s and 1500s, the castle and glen were frequently raided from the west by the ambitious MacDonald Lords of the Isles.


The Scottish Highlands are renowned for their wild beauty, grandeur and a rich cultural heritage, nowhere more apparent than in Dornoch with its glowing medieval town center of local golden sandstone.  For hills, glens, lochs and heather clad moors, the Dornoch area has them all situated as it is in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.  This seaside resort town boasts the 13th-century Dornoch Cathedral, the Old Town Jail, and the Bishop's Palace, which is now the well-known hotel. It's also home to a world-class golf course.

Cawdor Castle

This fine medieval tower house is still the seat of the Earls of Cawdor. Famous as the setting for Duncan's murder in Shakespeare's Macbeth, it offers elegant rooms and magnificent gardens.

Cawdor Castle dates from the late 14th century, having been built as a private fortress by the Thanes of Cawdor, with the ancient medieval tower built around the legendary holly tree – wherever you look, Cawdor Castle is steeped in intrigue and history.

The ancient castle, which is home to the Cawdor family to this day, has evolved over 600 years and has been lovingly filled with beautiful furniture, fine portraits, intriguing objects and amazing tapestries. Cawdor Castle is a truly extraordinary place.  Whether you are exploring one of the three gardens, adventuring in Cawdor Big Wood or putting on the nine-hole golf course, Cawdor Castle will fill you with happy memories.

  Dunrobin Castle

This majestic Castle is one of Britain's oldest continuously inhabited houses, dating back to the early 1300s. Tour the home and its gardens and get a glimpse of the Earls' and Dukes' lives.
Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly of Scotland's great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. Dunrobin Castle is also one of Britain's oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s, home to the Earls and later, the Dukes of Sutherland.

The Castle, which resembles a French chateâu with its towering conical spires, has seen the architectural influences of Sir Charles Barry, who designed London’s Houses of Parliament, and Scotland’s own Sir Robert Lorimer. The Castle was used as a naval hospital during the First World War and as a boys’ boarding school from 1965 to 1972.

Castle of Mey

The late Queen Mother purchased what was Barrogill Castle in 1952. The restored 16th-century estate was her home until 1996. Today, you can tour the gardens, the animal farm and visitor's center. The castle is situated on the north coast of Caithness, in the parish of Canisbay, about 15 miles east of Thurso and six miles west of John O'Groats. It stands on rising ground about 400 yards from the seashore, overlooking the Pentland Firth and the Orkney Islands. It is thought that a fortified granary occupied the site originally.

Seen from a distance, its turreted aspect is very striking. The jutting towers and corbelled turrets are typical of that period of the 16th century, particularly the chequered character of the corbelling of the smaller turrets. The parapet of the large turret is supported on winged cherub heads as corbels, similar to those on Carberry Tower, Midlothian.  There are numerous gun slits throughout the ground floor, several in the angles of the tower and more at first-floor level. The round arched entrance to the courtyard, on the north aspect is unaltered.

Inverness Castle

Invergordon is the port for Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. The northern part of Scotland, known as the Highlands, is one of the most scenic places in Europe. Among the main attractions is a landscape of mountains and forested hills. Visit the Inverness Castle and the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition (located southwest of Inverness)


The famous 1934 picture that started all the fuss

Rick Archer's Note:  In 2013, I wrote an extensive story on the origins of the Loch Ness Monster legend.  (Read Story)

Urquhart Castle


Cawdor Castle

Dunrobin Castle

Castle of Mey

Inverness Castle

The River Ness and Loch Ness offer stunningly beautiful vistas




Edinburgh is the political, commercial and cultural heart of Scotland.

Nestled between the Highlands and the Border Hills, Edinburgh is a thriving city noted for its superb skyline, its impressive collection of architecture and its beautiful parks.  The streets of the elegant New Town are lined with graceful Georgian buildings, many designed by the great architect Robert Adam.

Edinburgh has also exerted a tremendous cultural force on Europe and the English-speaking world. The International Festival has been one of the premier European cultural events for over half a century. Among those who have called the city home are the writers, Robert Burns, James Boswell, and Sir Walter Scott and the philosophers, Adam Smith and David Hume. To stroll the streets of Edinburgh is to experience one of the world's great cities.

Note:  South Queensferry is a port that requires passengers transfer to shore via ship's tender. 

Points of Interest:

Royal Mile & Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a formidable bastion that dominates the cityscape from atop its rocky perch.  Edinburgh Castle has been at the heart of Scotland’s life for well over 1,000 years. Well defended on its tall volcanic crag, it has been occupied since prehistoric times.

By the medieval era it was an important royal residence, and the city growing up around it became the nation’s capital. 

Edinburgh Castle is the most besieged castle in the UK and over many centuries has witnessed royal ceremonies, savage battles, medieval parliaments, lavish feasts, grand parades, ruthless politics, raids by stealth, the birth of a king and the deaths of queens, jousting tournaments, troubled marriages, devout prayers and intensive military activity.

The castle is also home to important national symbols, such as the Honors of Scotland (the crown jewels), the Stone of Destiny and the medieval siege cannon Mons Meg. Its long military use continues, and is recognized in the National War Museum, regimental museums, and the somberly handsome Scottish National War Memorial.  In more recent times, Edinburgh Castle has gained recognition as an international icon and a fascinating place to visit.

Situated at the end of historic Royal Mile, its dramatic, medieval design remains largely unchanged since the 18th century.

The Royal Mile is the historic heart of Edinburgh. Discover the museums, restaurants, and shops; explore the closes, wynds and hidden gems; and enjoy beautiful views across the city to the Firth of Forth.

Based in the Old Town and within a World Heritage site, the area is culturally and historically important to the city and jam packed with things to see and do. A “Scots” mile long, and connecting two royal residences (the Castle and the palace of Holyrood House), it is also home to parliaments old and new, law courts, a cathedral and churches, and a vast range of visitor attractions, walking tours, shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs. 

Unsurprisingly, the Royal Mile is one of the most well-known and most visited streets in Edinburgh.

Princess Street and Princess Street Gardens

Delight in the lively atmosphere and scenic beauty of Edinburgh's most popular thoroughfare in the "New Town" area. Browse the colorful shops and fashionable boutiques and enjoy the many sidewalk cafes.

It is the southernmost street of Edinburgh's New Town stretching around  one mile.  The street is mostly closed to private cars. The street has virtually no buildings on the south side, allowing panoramic views of the Old Town, Edinburgh Castle and the valley between. 

Be sure to stop at Princess Street Gardens.  Princess Street Gardens is the beating heart of Edinburgh, offering opportunities for relaxation and recreation, and forming the frame for the iconic views of Edinburgh Castle  from Princess Street.

Marla's Note: Rick and I visited the Princess Street Gardens in 2010.  If you enjoy a nature walk, this is an unusually pretty area to visit.

  Royal Yacht Britannia

Explore the fine art and ancient artifacts at Edinburgh's exceptional museums and view the monarch's personal possessions on the Yacht Britannia, the Royal Family's former seagoing palace.

The Royal Yacht Britannia was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. Now berthed in Edinburgh, you can follow in the footsteps of Royalty to discover the heart and soul of this most special of Royal residences.  Discover what life was like on board The Queen's floating Royal residence. You can follow in the footsteps of world leaders such as Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Rajiv Gandhi. Now The Royal Yacht Britannia is a five-star visitor attraction and a must see place to visit in Edinburgh.

Holyrood Palace

Dominating the end of Edinburgh's famed Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace is the official home to the monarch while in Scotland. Its hallowed halls have witnessed some of the most turbulent times in Scotland's history.

This palace is the royal family's official residence in Scotland, but is more famous as the 16th-century home of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots. The highlight of the tour is Mary's Bed Chamber, home to the unfortunate queen from 1561 to 1567.

It was here that her jealous first husband, Lord Darnley, restrained the pregnant queen while his henchmen murdered her secretary – and favorite – Rizzio. A plaque in the neighboring room marks the spot where he bled to death.

Stirling Castle

Located at the crossing point of the River Forth, Stirling has seen much of Scotland's tumultuous history. Tour its famous castle and battlefields and view royal memorabilia and military artifacts.

With an utterly impregnable position atop a mighty wooded crag (the plug of an extinct volcano), Stirling's beautifully preserved Old Town is a treasure trove of historic buildings and cobbled streets winding up to the ramparts of its dominant castle, which offer views for miles around. Clearly visible is the brooding Wallace Monument, a strange Victorian Gothic creation honoring the legendary freedom fighter of Braveheart fame. Nearby is Bannockburn, scene of Robert the Bruce's pivotal triumph over the English.

The castle makes a fascinating visit, but make sure you also spend time exploring the Old Town and the picturesque path that encircles it. Below the Old Town, retail-minded modern Stirling doesn't offer the same appeal; stick to the high ground as much as possible and you'll love the place.

Note:  Scotland is not a particularly wide country.  Since Stirling Castle lies halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, you have two different opportunities to visit. 

St. Andrews

Known worldwide as the birthplace of golf, this charming medieval town is home to the legendary Old Course, the venerable Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the exceptional British Golf Museum.
The St Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Club first met here in the spiritual home of golf in 1754, though it was first played here as early as the 15th century. The Old Course, which you can play, is most famous of the town's eight championship courses, and has played host to some of the world’s finest golfers at the British Open Championship over the years.

St Andrews University, founded in 1410, dominates the center of town. The elegant, ivy-clad buildings and delightful quadrangles and gardens have seen a procession of famous graduates such as Prince William. One of the top universities in Britain, St Andrews is often compared to Oxford and Cambridge for its defining presence and the collegiate feel it gives to the town.

The Medieval center of St Andrews consists of a series of narrow alleys and cobbled streets with shops, restaurants and cafés. Explore the castle, the now ruined cathedral and the adjacent church of St Regulus, where you can climb the spiral staircase to the top of the 108 ft tower for magnificent views of the town and its surroundings.

St Andrews has two great beaches, one being the magnificent West Sands, where the famous opening sequence of Chariots of Fire was shot. Other attractions include the Botanic Gardens, British Golf Museum, St Andrews Aquarium and the Byre Theatre, one of only four 5-Star arts venues in Scotland.

Floors Castle and Dryburgh Abbey

Travel south from Edinburgh to explore the Lowlands, the famed Border Country. Visit stunning Floors Castle, the largest inhabited castle in Scotland, and explore the ruins of 12th-century Dryburgh Abbey.

Floors Castle has been welcoming visitors, groups and special interest tours for over 40 years and one of its main attractions is that it is still a family home. 

Visit and explore the collection of fine art, porcelain, newly restored tapestries, grand rooms and superb views over the River Tweed and the Cheviot Hills. 

Built by leading architect William Adam in 1721 for the 1st Duke of Roxburghe, it has undergone periodic changes to create the dramatic building you see today.  Enjoy a hearty woodland or riverside walk to a stroll around the Victorian walled garden.
Perhaps the most beautiful of all the Border Abbeys, the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey are remarkably complete and surrounded by beautiful grounds.  First established in 1150, Dryburgh Abbey became the premier house in Scotland of the Premonstratensian order and today continues to have a peaceful atmosphere

Edinburgh is an unusually pretty city.  Here is a picture of the beautiful central park that lies at the foot of the imposing Edinburgh Castle atop the cliff.

Edinburgh Castle

Royal Mile

Princess Street Gardens

Royal Yacht Britannia

Holyrood Palace

Stirling Castle

St. Andrews

 Floors Castle

Dryburgh Abbey



Choose between


Le Havre is a port located where the River Seine meets the English Channel.  Le Havre is located 100 miles west of Paris and 60 miles north of the Normandy Beaches, site of the 1944 D-Day landings.  When we reach Le Havre, the guests will choose between a day trip to Paris and Normandy. 

Paris Points of Interest:

Marla's Note:  Paris is my absolute favorite place to visit in the world.  At this point, Rick and I have been there three different times.  Rick has contributed a wealth of stories and pictures that you should find quite interesting.

Paris 2010

Paris 2014

Paris 2015

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is one of the tallest structures in Paris, located on the Champ de Mars. Named for its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair.

The Eiffel Tower was built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which was to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution. Its construction in 2 years was a veritable technical and architectural achievement.

A symbol of technological prowess at the end of the 19th Century, the Eiffel Tower was a demonstration of French engineering.  It became a defining moment of the industrial era. It was met immediately with tremendous success.

Only intended to last 20 years, it was saved by the scientific experiments that Eiffel encouraged, and in particular by the first radio transmissions, followed by telecommunications. For example, the radio signals from the Pantheon Tower in 1898; it served as a military radio post in 1903; it transmitted the first public radio program in 1925, and then broadcast television up to TNT more recently.

Since the 1980s, the monument has regularly been renovated, restored and adapted for an ever-growing public.  Over the decades, the Eiffel Tower has seen remarkable achievements, extraordinary light shows, and prestigious visitors. A mythical and audacious site, it has always inspired artists and challenges.

It is the stage for numerous events of international significance (light shows, the Tower’s centenary, the Year 2000 pyrotechnic show, repainting campaigns, sparkling lights, the blue Tower to mark France’s Presidency of the European Union or the multicolored Tower for its 120th birthday, unusual fixtures, such as an ice rink, a garden etc.).

A universal Tower of Babel, almost 250 million visitors regardless of age or origin have come from all over the planet to see it since its opening in 1889.

Like all towers, it allows us to see and to be seen, with a spectacular ascent, a unique panoramic view of Paris, and a glittering beacon in the skies of the Capital.  The Tower also represents the magic of light. Its lighting, its sparkling lights, and its beacon shine and inspire dreams every evening.

As France’s symbol in the world, and the showcase of Paris, today it welcomes almost 7 million visitors a year (around 75% of whom are foreigners), making it the most visited monument that you have to pay for in the world.

Champs-Élysées & Arc de Triomphe

Known as "La plus belle avenue du monde" ("The most beautiful avenue in the world"), the Champs-Élysées boasts luxury specialty shops, cafés and the Arc de Triomphe, the world's largest triumphal arch.

The Champs-Elysées is almost a mile and a quarter long. At its western end the street is bordered by cinemas, theaters, cafés and luxury shops. On the opposite end, near the Place de la Concorde, the street is bordered by the Jardins des Champs-Elysées, beautifully arranged gardens with fountains and some grand buildings including the Grand and Petit Palais at the southern side and the Elysée at its northern side.

The latter has been the residence of the French Presidents since 1873.

The Arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories.  However he was ousted before the arch was completed.  In fact, the Arch was not completed until 1836 during the reign of Louis-Philippe. The Arc de Triomphe is engraved with names of generals who commanded French troops during Napoleon's regime. The design of the arch is based on the Arch of Titus in Rome.

The triumphal arch is adorned with many reliefs, most of them commemorating the emperor's battles. Among them are the battle of Aboukir, Napoleon's victory over the Turkish and the Battle of Austerliz, where Napoleon defeated the Austrians.   Below the arch is the Grave of the Unknown Soldiers, honoring the many who died during the First World War.

Musée d'Orsay

The Musée d'Orsay houses the most comprehensive collection of Impressionists in the world. The Musee d'Orsay is a museum housed in a grand railway station built in 1900. Home to many sculptures and impressionist paintings, it has become one of Paris's most popular museums. 

In 1978, the Gare d’ Orsay began its conversion to the Musee d’Orsay.  The museum includes art covering a period from the mid-nineteenth century up to 1914 and contains works from Degas, Rodin, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne van Gogh and others.


Across the Seine is the Louvre with such works as the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa.  The Louvre Museum is one of the largest and most important museums in the world.  It is housed in the expansive Louvre Palace, situated in the 1st  arrondissement at the heart of Paris.  The collection of the Louvre Museum was first established in the sixteenth century as the private collection of King Francis I.  

One of the works of art he purchased was the now famous Mona Lisa painting. The collection grew steadily thanks to donations and purchases by the kings. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the Louvre became a national art museum and the private royal collection opened to the public.

The museum has a collection of over one million works of art, of which about 35,000 are on display, spread out over three wings of the former palace. The museum has a diverse collection ranging from the Antiquity up to the mid-nineteenth century.

Notre Dame

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris ("Our Lady of Paris") was one of the first Gothic cathedrals, and is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in France and in Europe.

Not the largest cathedral in the world, the Notre-Dame might be the most famous of all cathedrals. The Gothic masterpiece is located on the ile de la Cite, a small island in the heart of the city.

The site of the Notre dame is the cradle of Paris and has always been the religious center of the city. The Celts had their sacred ground here, the Romans built a temple to worship Jupiter. A Christian basilica was built in the sixth century and the last religious structure before the Notre-Dame construction started was a Romanesque church.  

Rouen & Cathedral

The capital of Upper Normandy is home to the highest spire in France, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, a Roman Catholic Gothic cathedral immortalized by Claude Monet in his paintings.

“O Rouen, art thou then to be my final abode!" was the agonized cry of Joan of Arc as the English dragged her out to be burned alive in the market square on May 30, 1431.

The exact location of her pyre is marked by a concrete-and-metal cross in front of the modern Église Jeanne-d'Arc—and that eye-catching, flame-evoking church is just one of the many landmarks that make this sizable port city so fascinating.

Once the capital of the duchy of Normandy, Rouen was hit hard during World War II, but a wealth of medieval half-timber houses still line the tiny cobblestone streets of Vieux Rouen.

The most famous of those streets—Rue du Gros-Horloge, between Place du Vieux-Marché (where Joan burned) and Cathédrale Notre-Dame—is suitably embellished halfway along with a massive and much photographed 14th-century horloge (clock). Of course, the glorious cathedral itself is nothing to scoff at: Claude Monet immortalized it in a memorable series of paintings.

Versailles Palace & Gardens 

Versailles was designed as a palatial center of government for Louis XIV. Its garden is the most famous in the world featuring huge parterres, an orangery, and grand fountains.  The magnificent palace of Versailles is a testimony of the Sun King's extravaganza. The palace and its magnificent formal garden became the quintessential model for palaces in Europe.  When the château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris, some 12 miles southwest of the French capital.  In addition to the exquisite chateau, it is home to one of the most beautiful gardens in all of France.

he land for the Palace of Versailles was bought by French King Louis XIII. The Palace was built by French King Louis XIV.
The court of Versailles became the center of political power in France in 1682 when Louis XIV moved his entourage from Paris out to this new Palace in the country.  Versailles served as the Royal Palace until October 1789 when the royal family was forced to return to the capital after the beginning of the French Revolution.

Today Versailles is famous not only as a building and a fascinating place to visit, but as a lasting symbol of the now despised system of absolute monarchy in the 'Ancien Régime'.

Rick Archer's Note:  Following our 2014 Rhone River Cruise, Marla and I visited Versailles.  This is a fascinating place to see.  If you are interested in visiting this area, I highly recommend you take a look at my stories about Versailles and Marie Antoinette.


  D-Day Beaches/American Cemetery

No other place in France holds more associations for English-speaking visitors than Normandy.

The historic Allied landings on D-Day - 6 June, 1944 - live on in the memories of British and Americans alike. Nor has Le Havre forgotten the dark days of the war. The port was nearly completely destroyed during the Normandy campaign.

The Normandy American Cemetery honors the soldiers who lost their lives in WWII, most of whom died in the D-Day landings on five beaches on the coast of Normandy.  For the history buffs, Le Havre is situated near the sites of incredible historical importance.  Our port stop in Le Havre offers a chance to learn more about D-Day and to see the actual landing site.  The Normandy beaches, where Allied invasion took place on D-Day, are only 30 miles away.  

History focused its sights along the coasts of Normandy at 6:30 am on June 6, 1944, as the 135,000 men and 20,000 vehicles of the Allied forces made land in their first incursion in Europe in World War II. The entire operation on this "Longest Day" was called Operation Overlord—the code name for the invasion of Normandy. Five beachheads (dubbed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword) were established along the coast to either side of Arromanches.

Preparations started in mid-1943, and British shipyards worked furiously through the following winter and spring building two artificial harbors (called "mulberries"), boats, and landing equipment. The British and Canadian troops that landed on Sword, Juno, and Gold on June 6, 1944, quickly pushed inland and joined with parachute regiments previously dropped behind German lines, before encountering fierce resistance at Caen, which did not fall until July 9.

Rick Archer's Note: As the result of my 2010 visit to Normandy, I wrote an extensive story about D-Day complete with maps, pictures, plus modern-day photographs of the area.  If you are interested in visiting this area, I highly recommend you take a look at my D-Day story.


The small town of Honfleur surrounds a little 17th-century harbor in Normandy.  and is known for its old, picturesque port, houses with slate-covered frontages, historic buildings and churches.

Honfleur, the most picturesque of the Côte Fleurie's seaside towns, is a time-burnished place with a surplus of half-timber houses and cobbled streets that are lined with a stunning selection of stylish boutiques.

Much of its Renaissance architecture remains intact—especially around the 17th-century Vieux Bassin harbor, where the water is fronted on one side by two-story stone houses with low, sloping roofs and on the other by tall slate-topped houses with wooden facades.

Maritime expeditions (including some of the first voyages to Canada) departed from here; later, Impressionists were inspired to capture it on canvas. But the town as a whole has become increasingly crowded since the Pont de Normandie opened in 1995. Providing a direct link with Upper Normandy, the world's sixth-largest cable-stayed bridge is supported by two concrete pylons taller than the Eiffel Tower and designed to resist winds of 160 mph.

Paris is the City of Light.  It has become an international symbol for Romance and Beauty.

Eiffel Tower


Arc de Triomphe

Musée d'Orsay


Rick and Marla at the Louvre Museum, 2014

Notre Dame

Rouen Cathedral

Versailles Palace & Gardens

Normandy D-Day Beaches

Pont du Hoc

American Cemetery


Omaha Beach today


Caribbean Princess Venues



Dining Room


The Caribbean Princess


Club Fusion

Swimming Pool area and Movie Under the Stars


Caribbean Princess Staterooms



The luxurious Mini-Suite offers approximately 323 square feet of comfort and a separate seating area with a sofa bed for lounging or sleeping a third passenger. The spacious balcony is approximately 57 square feet and the bathroom offers a combination tub and shower.

These features and fine amenities are standard in a Mini-Suite stateroom:

Welcome glass of champagne
• Separate seating area with a sofabed
Twin beds that convert to a queen size bed*
• Private bathroom with combination tub and shower
• Shampoo, conditioner, body lotion
• 100% Egyptian cotton linens
• Balcony with patio furniture
• Two flat-panel televsions
• Satellite TV, refrigerator, hair dryer, safe, phone and desk
• 110V, 60-cycle alternating current (AC) w U.S. plug fittings
• Daily housekeeping service
• Evening bed turn-down, chocolates on your pillow

Mini Suite Diagram and Photo


The spacious approximately 231-square-foot Balcony stateroom is appointed with fine amenities and outstanding views from an approximately 45-square-foot private balcony.

These features and fine amenities are standard in the Balcony stateroom:

• Balcony with patio furniture
• Twin beds that convert to a queen size bed*
• Private bathroom with shower
• Shampoo, conditioner, body lotion
• 100% Egyptian cotton linens
• Satellite TV, refrigerator, hair dryer, safe, phone and desk
• 110V, 60-cycle alternating current (AC) w U.S. plug fittings
• Daily housekeeping service
• Evening bed turn-down, chocolates on your pillow

Balcony Diagram and Photo


The Oceanview stateroom is approximately 179 square feet and features a picture window for memorable views. The Oceanview stateroom is richly appointed with fine amenities.

These features and fine amenities are standard in the Oceanview stateroom:

• Picture window
• Twin beds convertible to a queen-size bed*
• Private bathroom with shower
• Shampoo, conditioner, body lotion
• 100% Egyptian cotton linens
• 110V, 60-cycle alternating current (AC) with U.S. plug fittings
• Satellite TV, refrigerator, hair dryer, safe, phone and desk
• Daily housekeeping service



The Interior stateroom is approximately 162 square feet and richly appointed with fine amenities.

These features and fine amenities are standard in the Interior stateroom:

• Twin beds that convert to a queen size bed
• Private bathroom with shower
• Shampoo, conditioner, body lotion
• 100% Egyptian cotton linens
• Satellite TV, refrigerator, hair dryer, safe, phone and desk
• 110V, 60-cycle alternating current (AC) w U.S. plug fittings
• Daily housekeeping service
• Evening bed turn-down, chocolates on your pillow
• Nightly turn-down service

Inside Cabin



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