Despite all forecasts to the contrary, those on the 2017 Historical, Hysterical Storytelling Tour England/Ireland experienced nine out of eleven days of sunshine and great weather!
It would seem that we brought the Arizona sun with us to a normally rainy England and Dublin. Our group included International Storyteller Pam Faro; Phoenix Storytellers Marian Giannatti and Mark Compton; Marian's daughter Alissa; New Teller Sean Martin and Sean's Fiancé Mandi Pardo.
After three flights, one delayed for an hour, a screaming baby on the first, cardboard food on the planes, overpriced cardboard during the layovers, and one very long Uber ride...we made it to the Generator Hostel in London! An unfortunate mishap ln the first evening, while headed to dinner, Pam Faro slipped and fell, bruising her knee and arm. The bruises then grew exponentially, (Update - we now know that she BROKE her arm and was carrying on for 11 days!)
The first full day in London found us romping in the unexpected sunshine off to the Eye, a giant Ferris wheel with spectacular views of the entire city. Then it we visited Shakespeare's Globe. The replica of the original was quite impressive. Then, the rain began to fall. Then, we couldn't get an Uber. Then, we couldn't get a taxi. Then, we decided to walk to the tube (underground). Still raining. We all went in separate directions and eventually arrived back at the hostel, completely soaked through!
Day two was a day on our own. The British Museum, the Museum of Curiosities, the Tate Museum, the Huntarian Museum of anatomical and pathological specimens, Madam Tousaud's Wax Museum, and Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station sere just a few of the places visited. Everyone had their own adventure!
Saturday morning (another sunny day) started with a short one-hour train ride through the countryside to Canterbury. First stop: Canterbury Cathedral. We could not visit the crypt, and there was a wedding going on there! Hmmm. Second stop was Eastbridge Hospital, a medieval hostel for pilgrims visiting the shrine of St. Thomas, now a residence for several pensioners. We listened to some great stories from the venue's curator and from one resident. Last stop, after a bit of shopping, was the Weatherspoon pub. A good meal, a few pints, and a stag (bachelor) party left everyone in great spirits.
On Sunday, we began with the Canterbury Tales Experience where a mixture of live and animatronic characters told some of the stories from Chaucer’s book along with some history of the era. Some went to services at the Cathedral and others went shopping. After lunch on our own, we met up for a grand boat ride on the river Stour with a guided, story-filled tour by our phenomenal boatman Eric. A sumptuous pub dinner rounded out the evening before returning to the hostel.
A train ride on Monday back into London, twists and turns as we transferred to the underground, and another train to Salisbury left us tired and hungry. Food and service at the Mill Pub was less than satisfactory, but three refunds later, and dessert at the King’s Head Inn, we headed for Salisbury Cathedral, site of the tallest spire in England! Light dinners on our own ended the day.
Sights and sounds of the traditional Market Square filled the morning just before a bus ride to the historic site of Stonehenge. The ancient ruins are still a mystery, as were the Salisbury Escape Rooms later that day for those who braved the challenge! A final Salisbury dinner at the Market Inn, complete with magic tricks and jokes, rounded out the day!
On day eight, an early morning train to Bristol was lengthened by redirecting from an inaccessible hostel to much better accommodations. We met up with English storyteller Tim Sheppard who was a most gracious walking-tour guide and historian. Lunch at the famous Llandoger Trow Pub where author Daniel Defoe met Alexander Selkirk, his real-life inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. A bus ride and walk to the Clifton Suspension Bridge left us breathless at the height, and views, and left Mark Compton traveling down a small rock slide (on purpose) on the seat of his pants!. A ferry boat ride around the bay and dinner on the docks rounded out our scenic visit. We ended the day with a masterful tale by Pam Faro of how her Uncle Olaus Survived the Titanic.
An early, and I do mean early, flight back to Dublin began our Thursday, another beautiful day! We dropped our bags at Abigail’s hostel and headed for a recommended O’Neil’s Pub. Here, an incredible “carver’s table” buffet filled our bellies. Next stop: Trinity College, founded in 1311 and site of the Book of Kells. A few Irish “tchotchkey” shops and we headed back to the hostel and eventually another pub recommendation, O’Connell’s. Our barmaid, Tracy proved to be a formidable jokester!
Friday turned into a “day on our own” with Mark, Marian, Alissa and I taking a short train to the coastal village of Howth. A decision to go on a “loop trail” walk around the hills led us through a magical forest, where we stopped along the way to have mark tell his Hump Brothers story, Marian told Finn MacCool and I Told Two Brothers. We reached the top of the hill, then got a bit lost (three times). We eventually found our way out, (after three and a half hours) with the help of a kind woman and her dog.
After the train ride back to Dublin, we longed for O’Neil’s carver’s table once more and stuffed ourselves. Sean and Mandi did some walking and shopping and joined us for our late lunch. Pam took a bus to Belfast, Northern Ireland and a tour of the Titanic Museum. She returned in time to join Mark Compton and I for desert at a little French café.
Saturday, our last day in Ireland returned to its traditional wet weather of rain and wind. We chose to gather in the morning for a final storytelling session with Sean telling an original tale called, “The Trouble” about the Irish Rebellion. Pam told her personal story of a disaster with a puppy when she was a child. Marian told something, but for the life of me, I can't remember what! - Wait, she just texted me...A story about Fairies bathing in a shop keeper's cauldron.
Sean and Mandi had gotten a good recommendation for a “boxter” restaurant, so we gave it a try. A “boxter” is a large Irish potato pancake that is folded over fillings, like a crepe. Marian and I both bought a package of mix to take home. We all went in separate directions, Sean and Mandi to the Jameson Whiskey Factory and others off for some ice cream.
Late Saturday night, Pam flew back to England for a few days, and on Sunday, the rest of us spent 15-20 hours on the long journey home – back to 100-degree heat. Although I miss the countries and the people, I am glad to have my own bed back!
Next week – I start to plan the 2018 tour. Come along and join us. Not sure if we will visit all the same places, or some new ones, but it is sure to be an adventure worth telling about!