Monday, May 29, 2017

Arguably the Best Flower Show On Earth

The 2017 Royal Horticulture Society
Chelsea Hospital Benefit Flower Show

Day 12 
Once a year many of the leaders in the floral industry travel to London. They come to the RHS Chelsea Flower show where they check in on industry events, network with peers and spot trends. The show serves as an annual fundraising event for the Chelsea Hospital.

The Chelsea Flower Show is an outgrowth of the RHS "Great Spring Show" formerly in Kensington that dates back to 1862. The event moved to its present 11 acre Chelsea Hospital site in 1913. The show has been conducted rain or shine. It has gone dark only in war times when London greenhouses were out of production.

The four day show is always a sell out and has been forced to limit attendance to a little under 160,000 each year (which makes daily attendance about the same as a light day at Disneyland).

Despite necessary limitations on attendance, the show this year was mobbed (likely in part because of the remarkably sunny days that accompanied the show).

This is the high fashion catwalk for design trends in the floral industry.

Full disclosure Architect Roadboy had never heard of the RHS show before planning this trip. But this trip I was traveling with someone in the floral industry (who was able to secure tickets!!). So seeing the show was a once-in-a-lifetime event for me.

So I am just going to post photos that a non-industry kind of guy (me) took as I strolled amongst London's posh designer clad attendees.


 Stunningly Black Zentedeschia

Colorful Clematis


Fringed Tulips

Rotating Seating Orbs

Splashes of Color

Fragrant Roses

Spring Assemblage


(Loved the Bee)


Brilliant Assemblages
(Photo by Carrie)


Brilliant Shades of Begonias

Some Heroic Topiary
(Made From Artifical Turf) 

It was an amazing place, full of buzzing bees, brilliant colors and wonderful fragrances.

And being from Phoenix it was kind of amusing to see Londoner's ready to pass out in 81° F temperatures. 

Roadboys Travels © 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Westminster Abbey and Kinky Boots!

Day 11

Wednesday was spent in a detailed tour of Westminster Abbey.  This is my second visit and I found a lot of new details to discover. We opted to attend the 12:30 Eucharist service which was inspiring. We then stopped for a really nice lunch at Westminster's cafe.

Sorry no photos (except for a few plush toys in the gift shop) as the Abbey has a strict no photos policy.

 Westminster Abbey 
(With the Houses of Parliament Beyond)
 Gift Shop Corgis 
(Westminster Abbey)

From Westminster we took the hop on / hop off riding as far as the Tower of London and then jumped off at Trafalgar Square where we could walk to the theater to pick up our show tickets.

 Big Ben From The Hop On / Hop Off

Dragon Gateways Designating Boundaries of "The City"
Since it was a Saturday London's financial district "The City" was very quiet. I've always found the distinction of the term "The City" to be interesting. You know when you are entering it as there are iconic gates at each gateway to 1.2 acre City of London.

Mercury Bass Relief 
On (I believe) the Former Guardian Newspaper Building / Fleet Street

Trafalgar Square (as usual) was filled with artists, human sculptures and tourists rushing to take their photos. There were numerous tributes to the Manchester bombing throughout the square. I was taken by the contrast between old and new iconography is David Shrigley's (i think a bit odd?) sculpture "Really Good!" on Traflagar's rotating "Fourth Plinth" with Nelson's Column beyond.

Really Good! Trafalgar Square

Marquee at The Adelphi
(Photo by Carrie) 

Program and Stage Set
(Photo by Carrie) 

With lots of Tony and Olivier awards, music by Cyndi Lauper adapted for the stage by Harvey Fierstein, Kinky Boots offered a great message and was just a whole lot of fun. 

Tomorrow is our day at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Hospital Garden Show.

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

London Via Where?

Air France, City Jet and KLM

Oh My!

Days 9-10

Day 9:
We allowed a lot of time at Dublin's airport due to my injured foot. It paid off. 

We'd originally booked a City Jet codeshare on Air France that flew direct from Dublin to (wonderfully close-in) London City Airport. 

And that was all fine until City Jet cancelled our direct flight and since Air France held the actual ticket they responded with a new KLM routing through Amsterdam. 

So, on crutches the new flight (with a tight connection in Amsterdam) was a pretty unwelcome complication. Then the KLM flight departed quite late from Dublin which now started making things complicated.

To their credit KLM worked to arrange a special transfer for me, but all the flights were city hoppers and used air stairs. Ugh.

Amazingly we made it to the connector flight, but sadly our luggage spent a night in the land of tulips.

We caught an uber from the airport to our AirBNB which sailed by Wembley Stadium, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Royal Horticulture Society Chelsea Flower Show (for which we have tickets on Friday). The Union Jack was at half staff everywhere we went in tribute to the Manchester victims. London's streets and tourist sites were full of soldiers in Camo carrying machine guns. Even the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace was cancelled to release the soldiers that normally manage the event to guard other landmarks.

Flags Lowered Over The Houses of Parliament

Upon arrival at AirBNB Number 2, we realized that while it resides in a perfect location it no longer looked as pristine as its profile photos. Overgrown garden, stained carpets. And, lots of narrow little stairs. So I guess we are 50/50 on success with AirBNB; one very superb, the other pretty average.

Day 10:
We spent got up early to track and wait KLM to deliver our luggage. But, by noon we had the bags and ubered to Victoria Station to pick up our tickets at the Apollo Victoria Theater (right across the street from Victoria Station) for Wicked. We then caught a hop on / hop off bus to squeeze in a little sightseeing before the play.

A Timely Message Left at Waterloo Station

I'd reserved a pre-show dinner at Kazan (Ottoman food). It turned out to be a wonderful dinner. I cannot remember ever having lamb prepared so wonderfully; moist, delicately flavored and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

My Lamb Shish at Kazan

Then it was off to Wicked. I guess I'm the only one in the universe who has not seen this Wicked. It was great, complete with spectacular staging and lots of beautiful music.

The Set for Wicked

Tomorrow will be a full day beginning at Westminster Abbey and our second play. Kinky Boots.

Roadboy's Travels © 2017   

Friday, May 26, 2017

Change in Plans

Days 6-9

After the long day spent traveling to Belfast and the Giant's Causeway the next morning was deemed a day to sleep in. 

It seemed like a nice leisurely day to return and visit Christchurch, the Guinness Brewery (called the "Storehouse") and if time permitted another stab at visiting the Trinity College Library.

First stop was Christchurch. This is the oldest medieval cathedral in Ireland. Its origins go back to the eleventh century. Like many ancient churches in Europe, Christchurch has been adapted and expanded continuously.  It had its buttresses added along with added chapels over the centuries.

Christchurch, however, is unique in that it is the seat for both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Although the Catholics have a special designation for another church that "stands in" as their cathedral.

It is a very picturesque building and that has landed it in many films and television series (most recently Reign and The Tudors).

Personally I found the tile floors to be exceptional.

Christchurch Cathedral Tower

One of the Floor Mosaics

 Detail From the Floor Mosaics

For me, however, Christchurch will always be remembered as the spot in Dublin where I took a rather splendid fall. after missing the last stair descending into its dark crypt.

I hit hard. The kind folks around me helped me up. But, once up I realized I had twisted my ankle pretty good.

There was no real pain, so we went on to our next stop the Guinness Storehouse. That is were I made two discoveries: first, the Storehouse was too crowded to enjoy and second, I had done something more than simply twist my ankle.

So I started researching Doc options. I quickly came to realize Ireland's healthcare is in a state of transformation as they move toward a single payer plan. In the meantime it is more like ours (kind of a mess).

If I'd fallen in Northern Ireland (British style healthcare) I'd have just gone anywhere and been fixed up. However after consulting the Dublin US Embassy website, I realized I'd be going to a doc in a box.

When I got there they asked me for my name and my credit card. I asked if they needed my US insurance card and they said no "American insurance is too hard to deal with".  You pay us and we fix you up..

So at this point I saw a doc, got x-rays (confirming I'd actually broken my foot) and left with new crutches, a stylish immobilizer boot and instructions to do mt best keeping weight off my foot for 10 days. Soooo.

Since my normal sightseeing in Europe relies on lots of walking, it became immediately clear that the balance of this trip would now include much more logistical planning. 

No tube or buses. This trip is all taxi's and uber's.

Day 7
Hell bent not to sit in the cottage we began with a return to the Trinity College Library. Today it was open and we were successful in getting a nce visit. And, I now know they have a secret little lift that the guards can use to take you up to the libraries magnificent "Long Room".

In My New Footwear.

Day 8
This was the day we booked the second day trip to the Cliffs of Moher.  I decided instead to take the, dayto put my foot up and chill in our wonderful cottage.

Here are two photos my traveling companion took on the Cliffs of Moher trip. Another reason I'll have to come back to Ireland! 

 Why Irish Creamery Butter is So Good!

The Wild Irish Coast

Day 9
When Sunday arrived we desided to attend church in St. Patrick's Cathedral. We found the cathedral to be meticulously maintained. And every seat was full for Sunday services. It is a choir based service where we heard their wonderful boys choir.

After church we admired its windows and history.  I also loved this little statue for the Boyle clan. In the middle is a little child (Robert Boyle) who grew up to b the "Father of Chemistry".

Robert Boyle

How Beautiful Are The Feet.... 
With my broken foot, the words on St. Patrick's pulpit took on new meaning. Tomorrow we'd be checking out and flying to London.

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Day Tripping & The Giants Causeway

Day 5

Part Two: The Giants Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

After departing Belfast we traveled through the village of Bushmills (home to the worlds oldest whiskey distillery) on our way to the Giants Causeway.

Along the way we made a quick vista / photo stop to view the ruins of Dunluce Castle. The ruins (like seemingly everything old in Europe) has been a filming venue for the Game of Thrones.

 Dunluce Castle

From there we continued on to the Causeway. 

The Giants Causeway was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1986. Formed million of years ago during a volcanic event, this natural wonder is a field of interlocking 4, 5 and 6 sided columnar basalt formations that extend from hte cliffs into the sea. Lore has it that the columns are the remnants of a "causeway" created by an Irish giant to use to go fight a giant in Scotland.

The Causeway Basalt Pillars 
Descend From the Cliffs

Detail of the Intricate Causeway Formations 

The Causeway Meets the Sea

Truly a one of a kind place on this planet. 

Our tour now proceeded to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This is a special place. Originally a 60' single hand rope bridge that fishermen used to traverse to Carrick-a-Rede Island where up to 82 fishermen installed and maintained their salmon nets until they discontinued fishing here in 2002.

Rope bridges are believed to have been used here for 350 years. When used for fishing the bridge was remived between fishing seasons. The current bridge was installed in 2008. 

On a sunny day (like ours) this was a very picturesque and fun stop. Not sure I'd be as enthralled on a windy and rainy day. In fact the bridge is closed when winds get too gusty.

A Panorama: The Cliffs of Carrick-a-Rede

Wildflowers at the Cliffs

The Bridge From Carrick-a-Rede Island

The Bridge Viewed From the Mainland

The Walk to The Bridge

A very long day we arrived back into Dublin about 8:30 PM.

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Day Tripping: Belfast & The Giants Causeway

Day 5

Part One: Belfast and "The Trouble"

On a previous trip to Ireland my daughter and I focused on the southern, western and middle of the island. 

This visit I scheduled a day trip to the two major northern destinations; Belfast and the amazing basalt coastline formations known as The Giants Causeway.

In our first stop the City of Belfast I hoped to gain insight about what the Irish refer to as "The Troubles".

The story is told via local cabbies who conduct "Black Cab Tours" to key sites in the civil war. Hearing the story from locals who have lived it is emotional and heartbreaking.

The title: The Troubles is an epic example of Irish understatement. Anyone living during the 60's-80's remeber nightly developments in Northern Ireland's tragic civil war.

In fact on my first trip to Europe, just after graduating high school, I experienced its consequences. The day after our student group toured the Tower of London it was bombed by the IRA.

Just a few years ago on a return trip to the Tower I inquired about the bombing and was directed to a very discrete bronze plaque denoting where that bomb had been placed. There is no other evidence of the event.

The history of Ireland is a litany of theft and abuse from the Normans to Cromwell.

Modern history centers around the Irish War of Indepndence from 1919 to 1921. The conflict ended in a 1921 truce partitioning the nation. The British would retain rule over 26 counties and a provisional government was formed. In 1922 all but 6 counties in Northern Ireland became an independent republic. The 6 counties remained under British control.

Within the 6 counties there is a deep divide between the Unionists / Loyalists that tend to be Protestant and consider themselves British and the Nationalists / Republicans that tend to be Catholic and desire to see all of Ireland united. 

To this day neighborhoods in Belfast are precisely divided between Republican and Unionist. Massive walls divide the neighborhoods and steel gates must be closed every evening to keep residents separated.

King William Mural in a Unionist/Protestant Neighborhood

 Tribute to a Unionist Sniper 

The "heroic" martyr portrayed in this mural began life as a skinhead. He went on to drug dealing, money laundering and the sniper killing at least 12. His kills were frequently random, innocent, Catholics. His attacks featured the killing of a man called to deliver a pizza, using an uzi in a crowded pub and the maiming of an 8 year old boy. 

After killing shop worker Philomena he was reported to be heard singing "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" as he drove off. 

He died from a lethal dose of painkillers and cocaine. The fact that his life is celebrated offers proof of the ongoing animus.

The Steel Gates and The Wall

Republican Anti-Royal Ulster Constabulary Mural

Republican Martyrs Mural

During the height of The Trouble the British under Thatcher responded by sending thousands of troops rather than attempt any sort of diplomacy. Spotters took their place on top of one of Belfast's tallest buildings and the hit and run war of tit for tat terrorism and violence jst escalated.

Perhaps the most notorious event took place on January 30, 1972. Known as Bloody Sunday, this is the date British Soldiers shot and killed 13 unarmed male civilians marching for the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. 

This was followed by an internment program where over a thousand Catholics were rounded up, interrogated (and generally abused) by almost exclusively Protestant guards; all without trial.

An uneasy ceasefire was negotiated in part when Bill Clinton sent George Mitchel as a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland to establish a schedule for ceasefire and disarmament. 

Yet, Belfast today remains a deeply troubled place. Annual parades and bonfires continue to remind everyone of ongoing animosity. The Black Cabs take tourists to view the physical elements associated with the dispute; murals, massive walls and the steel gates that still close each night to divide Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. They take you to view the prominent martyr memorials celebrating the urban terrorists of both sides. What can't be readily shown is the generational human toll that has surrendered to hatred and war.

All these years later while the rest of Ireland thrives, Belfast remains a sad, hateful, deeply divided  place with high unemployment.

It's two major tourist draws are based on disasters; the black cabs explaining The Troubles and a severely shaped museum dedicated to the HMS Titanic (which was built in Belfast, during its shipbuilding era).

 The Titanic Experience

Roadboys Travels © 2017