Cliffs Of Moher | Ireland’s Top Tourist Attraction

Ireland is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful country. Aside from Washington state (where I call home), I’ve never seen so much green in my entire life. That’s exactly why Johnny Cash wrote ‘Forty Shades of Green‘ on a trip to Ireland.  On top of all the green, there are a bunch of great places to see in Ireland. None of the tourist attractions are more impressive than the Cliffs of Moher though.

Tim Lewis KOMO Cliffs of Moher Ireland

Me at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

My mom and I only spent three days in Ireland, but we made sure one of those days was spent seeing the Cliffs of Moher. We stayed in Dublin and we didn’t rent a car, so we had to book a day trip through a tour group (the Cliffs of Moher are 165 miles southwest of Dublin). I would highly recommend doing the same thing. The tour group plans the entire trip for you (you can sit back and relax), you get to see several tourist attractions along the way, the tour guide shares great information, and lastly, you don’t have to drive on the NARROW roads near the cliffs. I don’t know who designed the streets in that area of Ireland (or when — maybe back when there were horses and buggies), but you can hardly squeeze cars past each other on a two-lane road. It was honestly nerve-wracking at times — and I wasn’t even driving.

I promise to share all the details about our day trip in Ireland in a different post, but for now I just want to focus on the Cliffs of Moher by themselves. They’re so darn impressive that they deserve it…

That’s what it feels like to be standing near the Cliffs of Moher. I shot that video to give you at least a glimpse of what it’s like to be there. Unfortunately, that clip doesn’t do the cliffs justice (even though I hope it still portrays how awesome they are). The Cliffs of Moher were honestly one of the coolest sights my eyes have ever seen.

Cliffs Of Moher Ireland Tourist Attraction

The Cliffs of Moher

Named after an old fort that once stood on the site, the Cliffs of Moher rise 702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean at their peak. The cliffs have their place in popular culture too. They’ve been featured in movies (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Princess Bride, and Leap Year) and several music videos (most popularly in Maroon 5′s ‘Runaway’ video). On top of all that, the Cliffs of Moher are the most visited tourist attraction in Ireland with nearly one million visitors a year.

There are tons of birds flying around the Cliffs of Moher, including puffins – I thought that was pretty cool. The birds make for a cool atmosphere, because you can hear their calls screaming through the cliffs. When add some tunes from local musicians (trying to collect a Euro or two from tourists), the smell of the ocean, and a cool breeze off the Atlantic, you have an experience that hits all your senses at the Cliffs of Moher.

If I’m ever lucky enough to visit Ireland again, I would definitely take a Cliffs of Moher boat cruise. I can only imagine how incredible the cliffs look from the water up. It’s officially added to my checklist, and you should think about adding it to yours as well.

Have you ever visited the Cliffs of Moher? What was your experience like? I would love to hear your stories! Leave a comment right here or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget: If you can’t travel the world; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com!

London Bridge | A Huge Disappointment

Ever since I was a kid I remembered the lyrics to London Bridge is Falling Down. Well, I honestly don’t know the entire song, I really only remember the first verse: London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, My fair lady. Even though the tune is about London Bridge falling to pieces, I expected the landmark to drop my jaw in London – but that didn’t happen.

London Bridge Pictures

London Bridge

The London Bridge is just another bridge. I was hoping to see something like the Golden Gate Bridge, but that wasn’t the case at all (it was far from it). My mom actually thought the Tower Bridge (the picturesque bridge on the east end of the river) was the London Bridge, so she was really disappointed as well. The London Bridge is as plain as they come. We were both expecting something more — much more.

Don’t get me wrong, the London Bridge serves its purpose by helping hundreds — if not thousands — of automobiles and people across the River Thames every single day. On top of that, the bridge has incredible history. According to Wikipedia, the first London Bridge was built by the Roman military around 55 AD. It was torn down and built up several times over the following centuries. Then came the old (medieval) London Bridge in 1176, which was replaced by the new London Bridge in 1824 (now located in Lake Havasu City, Arizona), which was then replaced by the current/modern London Bridge in 1973. It’s pretty unbelievable to read how much has happened on or around the London Bridge over the centuries.

London Bridge is Falling Down

London Bridge

With all that said, you would think the London Bridge would be deserving of a grand design, but again, that’s not the case. It’s actually pretty easy to miss if you’re not paying attention (I had to check my map a few different times to make sure I was looking at the right bridge). It’s very plain, but the London Bridge is still worth taking a look at (especially when you think of all the history there) — just don’t expect it to blow you away (you’ll get that from the Tower Bridge or Millennium Bridge (pedestrian bridge to the west) instead).

Have you ever seen the London Bridge? Were your socks knocked off by it? What is your favorite bridge in London (there are plenty of them)? I would love to hear from you! Leave a message right here, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+. And, don’t forget, if you can’t experience the world on your own; experience the world with me on http://allaroundtim.com.

Chicago | Willis Tower Skydeck And The Ledge

As you drive from O’Hare International Airport into downtown Chicago, you get an incredible view of the city skyline. There’s no bigger presence on the horizon than the Willis Tower (Sears Tower for those of you who refuse to let go of its old name). The 108-story landmark towers over a city of massive buildings that seem to stretch for miles. Willis tower is like a magnet — it’s impossible not to stare.

Willis Tower Chicago Flag

Willis Tower in Chicago

Since my grandma lived right outside of Chicago, I visited the Windy City a lot as a kid. I remember going to the top of the Sears Tower with my family. Back then, the Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world (Willis Tower now ranks ninth on that list), so it was heaven for a little boy. It was impossible to not be in awe of the incredible views. It’s a moment I never forgot, and one I wanted to relive again — so I did.

I’ve been to Chicago a few times over the last year and a half, but I never took the time to visit the Willis Tower Skydeck until my most recent vacation there (check some of my other adventures/misadventures from the trip). My brother and I finally decided to take the 1,353 foot ascent to the summit of the city.

There was no line when we first arrived at Willis Tower, but little did I realize the wait didn’t start until you took a short elevator trip to a different floor. We were told by one of the workers the line would take an hour, and it looked like it would, because there was a horde of people snaking around to the ticket booth. The wait wasn’t very long at all though. It only took my brother and me 35 minutes from the time we stepped into the building to get onto the Willis Tower Skydeck. We were there on a Monday, but the place was still bustling with summer tourists.

Willis Tower Chicago Skydeck

A view of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan from the Skydeck

NOTE: I have a quick tip for anyone who wants to save time at the Willis Tower Skydeck. Part of the waiting/line process includes a movie. The staff shuffles you into a little theater for a video about the building’s history, etc. If you’re like my brother and me; you want to see the views — not watch a movie. That’s why we walked into the theater and directly out the exit to get to the elevator to the Skydeck. I’m not sure how much time we saved, but I know we beat the crowd that sayed behind to watch the flick.

It costs $17.50 to visit the Willis Tower Skydeck, but it’s worth every penny. After a one minute+ elevator ride to the top (the Skydeck is on the 103rd floor), you’re introduced to unbeatable views of Chicago. I immediately felt like a kid again. I honestly think my jaw was hanging to my feet from the time I stepped onto the Willis Tower Skydeck to the time I stepped off. On a clear day, you can actually see four different states (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana) from the Skydeck. Some of the highlights from my eyes were U.S. Cellular Field, Wrigley Field (a little tough to spot) and the United Center. The best view of all though is looking over downtown and Lake Michigan. It’s a view of the city you’ll never forget — and one that makes you realize how big Chicago really is (it almost looks fake).

Willis Tower Chicago Ledge

The Ledge

The biggest difference from my first trip to the Sears Tower Skydeck to my latest visit to the Willis Tower Skydeck is the Ledge. The Ledge is actually four glass boxes that extend more than four feet over the side of the building. Yes, the boxes — all glass from top to bottom — extend beyond the side of the building (meaning you can look STRAIGHT DOWN). The Ledge gives you a unique (and thrilling) view of the city — if you can stomach it. There was a short line to get onto the Ledge, but nothing that took more than two or three minutes to get through. It was a truly amazing experience, and something I would suggest to everyone (unless you’re deathly afraid of heights).

There are a million things to do and see in Chicago. I totally understand that. I’ve been there 10 to 15 times in my life, and there’s still more I want to accomplish every time I visit. The one thing you have to do — no matter what — is take the time to visit the Willis Tower Skydeck and the Ledge. You won’t regret it!

Have you been to the top of Willis Tower/Sears Tower? Have you braved the Ledge? I would love to hear about your experience. You can leave a comment right here, or you can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. And, don’t forget, if you can’t travel the world; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com!

My Vacation Beard And Its Demise

As a sportscaster, I have to shave every single day. I can’t have scruff on television. It just looks sloppy. I’ll be dead honest with you though – I hate shaving. It’s my least favorite part of the day. When I have the opportunity to go without shaving; I jump all over it. It’s usually just a weekend or a quick vacation, but on my trip to Europe last month — my facial hair got out of hand.

Tim Lewis Vacation Beard

My vacation beard at Wrigley Field in Chicago

I worked my last day in Spokane on May 25th, and that was the last time I would shave for weeks (because I didn’t start my new job until July). During my trip overseas, I went from a hip looking scruffster, to a guy with a regular beard, to frickin’ Paul Bunyan. I loved staying away from the razor for so long (I went 24 days without shaving). Aside from the constant itch, I liked having a beard. My brother told me that I “wore it well.” I’d honestly grow a beard again (for a short spurt) if I had the opportunity.

After I returned from my trip to Europe, I immediately jetted off to Chicago for another vacation. That’s where the beard situation came to a head. My facial hair didn’t fare well in 98 degrees and 90% humidity, so it was finally time to say goodbye to my growth.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to attack my beard. I didn’t have clippers to trim it down, and I knew it would take forever if I just used a normal razor. In other words, it was going to be a pain (literally and figuratively) to get the hair off my face. Instead of dealing with it on my own — I let someone else do the shaving.

I strolled downstairs at the Hyatt Regency (where we were staying in Chicago) and walked into the Spa Di La Fronza Salon. That’s where I met Frank La Fronza — the owner. Frank sat me down in his chair and the adventure began.

Tim Lewis Before After Beard

Before / After

I’d never had someone else shave my face, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This situation played out much different than I anticipated. Frank first trimmed by beard with clippers, prepped my face with a warm towel, and then got to work with his straight edge. The only problem — Frank didn’t use any shaving cream. No joke — the dude did a dry shave on my face. It felt like he was either slashing my face with his razor or tearing off half my skin with every stroke. He would lightly slap skin, tug on my face, and then shave some more. It was one of the most painful/strange experiences of my life, but it got the job done.

When Frank was done with my face, he started to clean up around my ears. I was a few weeks overdue on a haircut, so I appreciated the gesture. I thought it was just part of the face shave, but suddenly Frank started cutting my hair. He didn’t ask me if I wanted a cut — or how I wanted it done — he just clipped away (later explaining that it needed “shaping”). I sat there in awe as Frank started chopping of my hair. The guy is straight old school. He didn’t use clippers (like most of my barbers do); he just used his scissors. The blades never stopped moving. Even when he wasn’t trimming my hair, the scissors were still quickly clamping down on the air. Frank was precise — he wasn’t going to miss a hair (even though I never asked him to cut one of them) — looking at my hair from every angle before he called it good.

After Frank finished up his masterpiece, it was time to pay. I was sure there had to be a set price for a shave and a cut, so I asked Frank how much I owed him. In response, he told me “whatever you want.” I’d never run into anything like that before. Since he didn’t take debit/credit cards, and I don’t carry money, I had to go to the cash machine. I took out $40, walked back over to Frank, and handed it over. It looked like I gave the guy a bar of gold (I clearly overpaid). He said thank you, opened up his drawer, grabbed a business card (which was sitting right next to the latest edition of Playboy), gave it to me, and told me to come back again anytime. Frank knew a whale when he saw one.

Frank La Fronza

Frank La Fronza from an article on ChicagoMag.com

I learned a lot about Frank La Fronza that day. Originally from Italy (he has the accent to prove it), he’s lived in the United States since 1966. He’s a short older guy — I would guess mid-to-late 60′s (or maybe even 70′s) – with style. Frank loves his salon, but the economy is hurting business, so he’d like a smaller location. He calls his female employees “baby” and is clearly loved by his regulars. They just stop in to say hello to him and chat – not even looking for a cut. It’s a real barbershop-type experience. At one point, Frank told one of his guests (a guy who was a regular when he lived in Chicago, but now lives in Colorado Springs) that life is a “mother f^&#er” sometimes — referring to business being slow. It was pure entertainment just listening to Frank talk.

In the end, I wish I would have kept the beard longer. I should have stretched it all the way to July just to see how ridiculous it would get. At the same time, I wouldn’t have met “Franky Baby” (as I now refer to him). The $40 I paid feels like a bargain when you can walk away with a story like that. I do it all over again if I had the chance.

Do you have any wild salon/barber shop stories? Am I the only one who hates shaving? I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Google+. Don’t forget you can also connect with me on YouTube and Pinterest as well!

My Unforgettable Trip To Europe

I just returned from my first trip to Europe. I spent 19 days bouncing around the continent with my mom (it’s a lot more fun than it sounds — I promise). It was easily the coolest vacation I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve only been back for a couple of weeks and I already want to get back overseas. I officially have the European travel bug.

I plan on doing several in-depth posts about my trip, but I thought I would at least let you get a feel for where I went first:

Tim Lewis | Cliffs of MoherThe trip started in Ireland. I stayed in Dublin, but I bounced all over the country. I visited the Cliffs of Moher (and the entire Burren area), Bunratty Castle, Galway and Kilkenny. If you like the color green — you’ll love Ireland! It was the first European country I ever visited, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Royal Mile Edinburgh ScotlandThe adventure then took me to Edinburgh, Scotland. This is easily one of the most beautiful/unique cities I’ve ever seen in my life. All of the buildings are old and they’re made of stone. While it’s pleasing to the eye and packed with history, Edinburgh doesn’t bring a ton of fun/atmosphere. The views of the city alone though are worth seeing.

Elizabeth Tower LondonAfter Edinburgh, I flew to London. I didn’t plan on it, but I was there for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Weekend. That means London was packed with people and excitement. I’m not a royal familyaholic or anything, but it was cool to be in England for such a large event. I’ll never forget it. There’s tons to do in London without the jubilee, so we were busy.

Eiffel Tower ParisThe next stop on the trip was Paris. This was probably my favorite location of all. I can’t really explain why though (maybe just because it’s frickin’ Paris). It’s a beautiful place with plenty of awesome sights to see. There’s also the hustle and bustle of a large city. Standing on top of the Eiffel Tour at night, looking out on the “City of Light” is something I’ll always remember.

Canal Tour Bruges BelgiumFrom Paris, I took a train to Bruges (or Brugge), Belgium. This place is catered to tourists, and they flock here in droves. I wish I could have visited Bruges ten years ago…before it was a tourist trap. Don’t get me wrong; it’s an amazing place (especially at night when the tourists go to bed and the city is lit up), but Bruges is geared way too much toward out-of-towners.

Bikes in AmsterdamThe next stop: Amsterdam. This is a cool city. It’s aesthetically pleasing and it’s fun. That’s because the place is full of young, good looking people. It’s also packed with bicycles (they say more than 40% of all residents in Amsterdam ride bikes — and I believe it). Even if you aren’t there to party, Amsterdam is definitely worth a visit.

Salzburg, AustriaI then took a night train to Munich (an interesting experience), but then continued on to Salzburg, Austria. I wasn’t sure what to expect in Salzburg, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s the birthplace of Mozart and also where the movie The Sound of Music is centered, so the hills (and city) are truly alive with music. It’s a little quiet for younger folks, but it’s a neat city to see.

A True Bavarian LunchAfter a day in Salzburg, I hopped a train back to Munich. That’s where I wrapped up my trip. I’ve decided that I belong in Bavaria. There are beer gardens/beer halls everywhere, and they’re loaded with people all day, every day. They serve massive Bavarian pretzels and serve bratwurst and/or pig knuckles. I truly think Munich might be a tiny slice of heaven on Earth.

Every city/country in Europe is completely different from the other. That’s what made my trip so exciting. You never knew what you were going to see next, and you never knew who you were going to meet (or if they could even speak a word of English).

I can’t wait to share more adventures from my trip to Europe here on http://allaroundtim.com. In the mean time, be sure to visit my YouTube channel. I posted several videos on there, letting you feel what it’s like to actually be in Europe. Like I always say: if you can’t travel the world; experience the world with me right here on All Around Tim!

Stay tuned for MUCH more…

Lee Smith | Meeting A Baseball Legend

I love 1980s baseball. There’s no hiding that fact. My buddies and I can throw around names from that era for hours. I’ll even go through my old baseball cards every so often just to relive the “glory days”. That means it’s a real treat when I get to meet one of the guys I idolized back then — and to some extent – still do today. Enter –> Lee Smith.

I just got back from a trip to Chicago with my dad and my brother. It was strictly a baseball vacation. We watched the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox at Wrigley Field on Sunday, June 17th, and then had tickets to all three games of the Chicago Cubs versus Chicago White Sox crosstown rivalry at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that week.

Lee Smith Baseball

Lee Smith and me at Murphy’s Bleachers in Wrigleyville

I have to admit there’s no place in baseball that matches Wrigleyville for pregame atmosphere. I’ve been to ballparks all over the country, and the only place that even comes remotely close is Fenway Park in Boston.

It was my first trip to Wrigley Field, so we strolled around Wrigleyville before finally posting up at Murphy’s (Murphy’s Bleachers to be exact) for a couple beers. Well, luck would have it, Lee Smith was there to sign autgraphs and take pictures with fans.

SIDENOTE (for those who don’t remember or don’t know Lee Smith) >> Lee Smith is one of the best relief pitchers in Major League Baseball history. He recorded 478 saves in an 18-year career with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos. He held the career saves record from 1993 to 2006, before San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman finally took the top spot (since passed by New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera). Not in the Baseball Hall of Fame yet (he’s been on the ballot since 2003), there’s an ongoing debate if Smith belongs with the game’s elite or not.

I didn’t hesitate at the chance to shake hands and get my picture taken with a legend (remember my passion for 1980s baseball). Smith, who looks more like a defensive end than a pitcher, was a friendly guy in our brief encounter. He even let me snap my picture with him for free instead of paying the $20 rate he was charging everyone else.

My Lee Smith story doesn’t end there. A different celebrity sings “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch of every Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. It’s a tradition first started by long-time broadcaster Harry Caray, who passed away in 1998. The special guest that night we were there to see the Cubs against the Red Sox was – you guessed it (or at least you should have) — Lee Smith. Here’s the video I shot at the game (you can hear my excitement at the start of the clip):

It’s not the best rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” ever, but it was still a cool experience to hear Lee Smith lead the Wrigley Field crowd during the 7th inning stretch.

Lee Smith isn’t the only legendary baseball player I met on the trip, but that story is for another day/blog post. I’ll give you a hint though – his first name starts with an F and his last name starts with a T. Any guesses?

Have you ever met Lee Smith? How about any other 1980s baseball players? I would love to hear your stories. You can leave a comment right here, or reach me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. As I mentioned before, I’m down to talk 80s baseball anytime!