Today was cold and rainy, but nevertheless we decided to go explore Ghent (a short 20 minute train ride away).

We went straight to Gravensteen Castle…

Fun! (Okay, maybe not the many, many steep, narrow, old stone spiral stairs. Those were NOT fun. They were a bit scary.) But the rest of the castle was fun, especially the audio tour (hilarious, especially the sound effects).

The cross window signifies that Philip of Alsace, Count of Flanders (who built Gravensteen) went on crusade to the Holy Land.

Gravensteen was built in 1180 by the Count of Flanders, Philip of Alsace. The audio tour did a wonderful job of relating the history of the castle and of Flanders, along with many anecdotes from Philip’s life.

After touring the castle, we walked around Ghent and had lunch. And then then it started pouring and we stopped and had frites and a Stella (as one does). Ghent is beautiful and I wish we’d had better weather and been able to see more. Still, we had a great day, loved Ghent and really loved visiting Gravensteen.

In Bruges

After (almost) 3 years of pent up wanderlust, Tim and I have finally hit the road again. We decided to do a quick trip to Belgium, mostly because there were seats available.

The flight over was fine. Okay, honestly, it was noisy (imagine crying babies, screaming children, and lots of yapping and whining from little dogs) and so we didn’t get much (much=any) sleep. Then the customs line was slooooowwwwww. But we finally got on the train to Bruges!

By the time we arrived at our Airbnb in Bruges it was noon local time and we’d been up for 24 hours. We were exhausted…so we crashed for about 4 hours. We got up and walked to the market square (markt), ate dinner, had a beer, and just marveled at the fact that we were finally traveling again. Europe, we’ve missed you!

The next day we did the touristy things – a canal boat tour, and city bus tour…and then just walked around and explored and ate and drank. We learned a lot about the history of Bruges and saw swans and beautiful buildings and the sun was out.

This was the old city hospital. The arrow is pointing to where “ambulances” would drop off patients (by boat). In the lower right corner you can see the edge of a door which is where the dead were picked up.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Those of you who have read this blog for a while, or who know me in “real life,” know that we have hosted several exchange students through the years. Most of them were wonderful experiences and I truly enjoyed getting to know these kids. In fact, I still keep in touch with most of them and we’ve been exchanging emails and making plans to see a couple of “our” kids while we are in Paris. I can’t wait!

Unfortunately, our last hosting experience wasn’t quite as successful. Without going into a lot of details, I’ll just say that it left us with a bad memory of hosting and exchange students. (Some of you met the student and understand the challenges we had to deal with.) 

After having such wonderful experiences earlier, I hated that we felt so…scarred…by our last hosting challenge. It shouldn’t be a challenge. It should be fun. It should be an adventure. There will be challenges throughout that adventure, of course. But the experience itself shouldn’t be so difficult. 

After much thought and reflection, the empty nesters have decided to share our nest next year with another exchange student. 

We are excited…and, understandably, a tiny bit nervous as well. But mostly excited. 

Erin go Bragh

Last week Tim and I embarked on another empty nester adventure to celebrate our anniversary. (26 years!) We were originally planning on going to Lisbon, but after checking flights and loads and realizing the impossibility of getting to Newark to get the Lisbon flight, we did what all good non-rev travelers do and we changed our plans. We decided to go to Dublin instead. Yes, Dublin in February is overcast, rainy, and cold…but the flights were wide open and we got a great deal on our hotel, so off we went!

I mentioned that we got a great deal on a hotel, but I have to say a few more words about our hotel. We stayed at The Shelbourne and it was one of, if not the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. From the moment we arrived, everyone went out of their way to ensure we had a pleasant experience…and we certainly did! The hotel itself is beautiful and is located directly across across from St. Stephen’s Green and down the street from Trinity College. When we awoke from our “jet lag nap” after arriving, we were delightfully surprised by a sweet surprise from the hotel. 


A bit of trivia about The Shelbourne; in addition to the many famous guests who have stayed there over the years, the Irish Constitution was written at The Shelbourne, in room 112, which is now known as the Constitution Room. 


We strolled through St. Stephen’s Green, which was lovely – even in February. 

We did the touristy hop on-hop off tour bus, went to  Dublin Castle (which was, frankly, disappointing. It was built in the 1800’s. Big deal. We have stuff older than that in the U. S. 💁🏻) and saw the Chester Beatty Collection, which was quite amazing. We tried to tour the Kilmainham Gaol, but the queue was over two hours and it was 40 degrees and raining. No thanks…maybe next time! 

The next day we took the train to Kilkenny, where we saw a  real castle, Kilkenny Castle, (dating back to the 1200’s. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!) It was beautiful. We strolled along the old cobblestone streets and ate lunch in an old pub in front of a huge fireplace. We saw gorgeous old cathedrals and abbeys. It was a cold, but fun, day. 

Finally, we went to Trinity College where we saw the Long Room(old library), which was nirvana to a book nerd like myself. It was a huge, wonderful room filled with old books and busts and beautiful wood and soft light. I wish I could adequately describe the smell of the room. It was old books, and knowledge, and history…and as you walked in and breathed in you could smell it. My only complaint was that I wasn’t able to wander up and down the aisles and peruse the old tomes to my heart’s content. But, it is a working library, and the students at Trinity College do have access to all the books, so….

We also saw the Book of Kells exhibit, which is also at Trinity College, and that was also very interesting and beautiful…and quite amazing. 


 There were many other things we would have liked to have done. We had hoped to be able to visit some museums our last day in Dublin, but we forgot that museums are closed on Mondays. Oops. Oh well, it just gave us a bit more time to shop, and drink a bit of tea, and pop into a pub or two and grab a pint…or two. 


Edinburgh, Day Two 

Day two in Edinburgh was another gorgeous, sunny day. We walked to Waverly Bridge and took one of the tour buses for a “hop on-hop off” tour of the city…

The Balmoral Hotel, where J.K. Rowling wrote the last Harry Potter book in room 555. 


Arthur’s Seat in the background…more about that later…

Holyrood Palace,Queen Elizabeth’s residence when she is in Scotland. 


After the bus tour, we walked over to the Scott Monument, where Tim climbed the 287 steps to the top and I sat on a bench and drank a diet coke and people watched 💁🏻. 

And then…we hiked up Arthur’s Seat. 

Arthur’s Seat is another extinct volcano, which also overlooks the city. It was a gorgeous, sunny day…it was incredible. 


Calton Hill
Views of Holyrood Palace and Calton Hill

Holyrood Palace and Calton Hill in background

Calton Hill

Holyrood Palace, with the Abbey in back. 

Finally, we toured the Real Mary King’s Close, which was really cool and interesting and informative. I love learning little “factoids” such as…

During the foul pestilence (plague) doctors (who often weren’t really doctors) wore beak like masks filled with herbs to try to fend off the plague…and that’s where the phrase “visiting the quack” came from. (The bird like masks…)

Also, I learned that during the plague, people were dying so quickly that they just buried bodies as quickly as possible. Sometimes they made mistakes and thought a person was dead, when in fact they were only unconscious. Apparently, this happened so often that they began burying bodies with a string attached to a little bell above ground. If an unconscious person was mistakenly buried, they could tug on the string and it would ring the bell (and hopefully someone would hear it and dig them out!) From this came the expression “dead ringer!”

Empty Nester Adventure (#1)

Tim and I decided to have our first empty-nester adventure. Of course, non-revving is always an adventure, but we decided to try to get to Edinburgh, Scotland…and we made it!

The first thing we saw as we walked out of the airport was a bagpiper, and that made me very happy indeed. 

We checked into our hotel and had a quick wee nap (6 1/2 hours in an exit row with non-reclining seats is NOT conducive to a restful flight!) and then woke up to find the sun shining and balmy temperatures outside. We strolled along the Royal Mile, listened to more bagpipers, and had some coffee, and then climbed the hill to Edinburgh Castle, which was magnificent. 


As you walk into the castle, there are statues of Robert the Bruce

And William Wallace

Edinburgh Castle was built atop an extinct volcano, so it sits high up on its rock overlooking the entire city and the Firth of Forth (which I found out means basically, the estuary leading to the city). On a clear day, the views are incredible. 

We toured the Royal apartments, the ancient chapel of St. Margaret, the Crown Jewels (there’s not many; the Scots blame the Brits😏), saw the Stone of Destiny, the dungeons, and saw many suits of armour and weapons…I cannot even imagine lifting one on those Claymores – they’re huge!


Qué Pasa?

While I miss the kids – a lot, I must confess that this empty nest thing is really not so awful. It’s quiet. And the house stays clean. And there’s barely any laundry. I haven’t been cooking…there’s just Tim and I. It hardly seems worth the effort. We’ve been eating out, or grilling something, or having salads, or just “foraging.” 

We read a lot…

And take walks on the beach…

We’ve acted like tourists and walked around St. Augustine…

And we’ve been planning our first “empty nester adventure” in a couple of weeks, which I won’t say more about because we fly space available and I don’t want to jinx anything. (#nonrevsuperstitions!) but I will say that I’m excited!! 😊

Clay has started his classes and has been working quite a bit. He has met with his professors about his research project and is planning a night sampling soon (to see if Erika’s higher tides brought in any unusual creatures.) He also went out the other evening and caught and tagged sharks (for NOAA.)

(I agree – he looks demonic in this photo. )
Paige has mastered Uber and has gone grocery shopping with a friend…

She seems to be eating healthy…

Although she is not a fan of the heat and humidity in Tallahassee!

And she ran into (literally!) an old friend the other day, whom she’s known since 2nd grade. Their lives have taken such parallel tracks, it’s funny. They first met through rhythmic gymnastics, then again at The Florida Ballet, then again at the performing arts high school, and now at college…and they have the same major and are in the same computer class!

And finally, Jack. Jack has been…well, exactly the same. 

Some things never change…