Home, recouperated and back to routine…after a few hiccups!

Since the 9th, much has happened, so let’s play catch-up, once again!

9September12

Everyone, including Anna and I, was deposited at the departure level of the Dublin Airport, where everyone said their quick goodbyes and Marc and Nancy off to return the two rentals.  Their flights were much later in the day.  I realized, in the rush of everyone to pile out, that I forgot my backpack, which was in the back seat, not the trunk…where my suitcase had been placed.

After a “regroup” to retrieve my backpack, saying good bye again and thank you to Marc, Anna and I went off to the pickup point for hotel shuttles, where we grabbed a ride to our hotel.  We were able to get our rooms early (after a short wait) and lugged our stuff up one final time.  The early rise had been hard on both of us, so after a respectably long nap we got together late morning to tromp around Dublin.  We shared the expense of a taxi and had him deposit us smack dab in the middle of O’Connell Street.   From there, with cameras at the ready, Anna and I wandered off on side streets to find things that were more “local” — where the locals would do their day-to-day business.

But first, we had to get away from the throngs of tourists.  That took a couple of blocks.  We then found a couple side streets that had mini-farmers markets, selling mostly flowers and a few vegetables.  Our goal was to find the Farmers Market.

Zigzagging through the streets, we came upon an area that was almost deserted.  Beautiful old buildings with a profusion of intricate detail fringed the intersection.  Across and kitty-corner from where we stood was a graffiti-tagged building with double-wide wooden doors and wrought-iron work.  Brick and marble wrapped around the entry beautifully.  The building almost took up an entire block.  Upon closer inspection, there were at least four of these entries — and sadly, this was the building for Dublin’s famous Farmers Market.  The open hours were long past done!  For Saturday, the hours

Dublin's Farmers Market

(I’ve been attempting to insert a photo…so far, unsuccessfully — if it does not work, I’m sorry…)

were 6am (same every day) till 11am today–about when we just thought of getting into Dublin. To see into the building was difficult, as the windows were set very high in the doors, leaving only the upper half and ceiling for us to see.  It was a huge space, filled to the rafters with interesting bits of this and that.  At that moment, I started a list of places to re-visit the next time I’m in this lovely city — the Dublin Farmer’s Market, in full swing, is at the top of the list!

From there, we weaved our way past a small park, apartments and businesses, back toward the Quay, crossing over one of many bridges.  This particular bridge brought us up the street to an ornately decorated church with an overpass to a portion of the church turned into Dublinia — a touristy spot celebrating the Viking presence in Dublin.

At some point (whether before or after Dublinia), I popped into one of many Tourist Information shops and grabbed a free map (very basic).  We were across the street from Trinity College, where the Book of Kells is on display.  Both of us decided this would be a good place to poke around.  There was a Shakespeare festival going on, but we had no time for that.  Show times were too late in the day for us. Onward through the beautiful college campus to the Library, which housed the Book of Kells — and was the location of one of the scenes for the Harry Potter movie.

After queuing up to get in, we discovered we only had a half hour before closing.  We chose to move forward with our plans.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed…not even without flash.  A very sad thing for me, indeed.  The history of the Book of Kells was fascinating, the book itself was beautiful.  But most striking was the Library.  Entering into the library was the most wonderful experience ever.  The aroma of old musty books (and I do mean old) was amazing.  I wish I could bottle the smell.  I think I could have spent the entire day just standing around taking in this magnificent scent and view of towering rows of books.  They used rolling ladders to get to the top shelves.  The bindings on the books were gorgeous.  The cordoned-off isles kept tourists far away, protecting the books from curious hands, unfortunately.  Titles were not visible, but one could imagine…all of the old masters, of all genres.  I would loved to have simply set down a bedroll and slept there, with visions of all the writers at work, penning their masterpieces.  It puts a smile on my face, even now.

Our thoughts were rudely interrupted with the announcement that we had five minutes to clear out.  Hurrying down to the gift shop, I made a few quick purchases and met Anna outside.

Onward.  We continued to wander through the campus and found a metal spherical sculpture — I didn’t see anything describing it, but the polished surfaces of the deliberately fractured sphere reflected buildings, trees and sky beautifully.  A photo op if I ever saw one.  Both of us took numerous shots.

Then, we worked our way out of the college and down into the Temple Bar district.  Another sphere, filigreed, that I’d seen only from the Dublin Tour Bus on previous visits was finally seen up close and personal.  More photos.  I don’t know why I’ve always looked forward to seeing and been drawn to this sphere, but it is exquisitely done.  And up close, wonderful to shoot!

After that, more walking, until we came upon a great little pub.  The sign was inviting:  Lost? Need directions?  The meaning of life? Just want to chat? Come inside…Barman “knows everything!”  So, in we went, into The Vathouse Restaurant.  Cozy, but at the same time huge — a long, narrow establishment that seemed to go on and on.  Dark and worn, carved woodwork was everywhere — on the walls, bannisters, bar tops and several (I think I counted three) monitors were blaring the current football (soccer) game — Ireland vs some other country.  We worked our way up steps into the back area and settled into a two-seater table.  Our food was delicious, the surroundings easy on the eyes and we relaxed for awhile, chatting and eavesdropping on the boisterous football fans as they cheered and booed as the game progressed.  Ireland lost 3-0.

It was finally time to say pay up at the pub and head back to O’Connell Street.  Meandering down to the Quay, we found a bridge to cross, worked our way through the crush of tourists and up O’Connell Street, hailing a taxi near the Spire.  That was the end of our day.  I spent the rest of the day repacking, taking a shower and preparing for our 10am flight in the morning.

Oh!  The “hiccups”!  Well, what happened next is a story for another day.  I just hope this posts correctly — with the photo, I’ve been having my own “hiccups” getting this done!

Farewell to Friends

Well, it’s the incredibly early hour of 5:25am and we are preparing to leave our hotel, so I thought I’d send my last couple days of wandering thoughts…I am still so blurry eyed from the last two days, I apologized for any errors in spelling, etc.

Today, we will go to the airport and all but two of us (the California girls ^,^) will be departing on various planes. So sad to see everyone leave. The end in plainly in site. Sigh. But really, I am ready to go get on the plane, sleep and start getting back to a normal routine once again.

8June

It’s just 7:15am and I have just started the coffee. I’d much rather be sleeping. These late ours are beginning to seriously effect me. That, and all the food I’ve been eating! Everything tastes so good! I’ve had Irish stew (lamb, of course) twice, salmon, high tea with scone, melt-in-the-mouth soda bread, Irish bacon (kinda like Canadian bacon but bigger, less uniform slices), black and white puddings …the list goes on! I think I’ll wait two full days before I step on the scales at home so I’m not blown over at how much weight I’ve gained!

And, as I lay here writing this, I’m thinking about the fact that I still feel full from last nights dinner (Irish stew). We will be leaving at 9am, after a continental breakfast. But first, dress and get me a cup of coffee! Arg. Maybe, only the coffee! We’ll be going to a Farmers Market this morning before heading off to catch a boat tour to see the Cliffs of Mohr — hmmm…it is raining…and windy. Is this what we really want to do today? Sigh.

Oh, my! As tired as I am, I decided I’d check my calendar for appointments I made for my first few days back — and had to chuckle. On Monday, I have an evening meeting, but is shows up as 2:30am, my Tuesday afternoon appointment is at 9pm! I didn’t realise my appointments would shift along with my clock when I arrived in Ireland! So funny!

Well, we’ve had a change of plans. Instead of a leisurely morning, we scurried to pack before our departure–decided to move to a hotel closer to Dublin (so now we’ll only have 1-1/2 hr drive–we can sleep in!!), so we are carrying our luggage with us all day.

We arrived around 11am in Kinvarra for the 10-2 Farmers Market, then off to the Cliffs of Mohr. Wind and rain kept it very quiet even on the middle of town, protected by surrounding buildings.

Next stop was the Cliffs. Even with the rain stopped and the sun out, the winds were so bad up at there that they cancelled the boat ride, so we drove to the Visitor Center and did it on foot. Well, everybody but me. I couldn’t handle fighting to stay upright (I would love to know how strong the wind was blowing), so I went directly into the Visitors Center and waited for everyone to come to me ^,~

At 4pm, we all struggled to get back to the cars without the wind knocking us off our feet and headed for Athlone, our destination for the night…about 2 hours from the Cliffs.

Dinner in a fine restaurant–this is Marc’s mantra: fine music, fine food & fine accommodations. We are eating at Olive Grove (in Westmeath). I’ve decided to try Irish beef — and parsnip (never had before)!

Now that it’s done, I must say, the beef & gravy was magnificent & the parsnip tasted a lot like mashed potatoes.

I am full. And I didn’t even finish my dinner–huge portions! Yet–I am having the chocolate souffle — never had one… ^,^ yumyumyum…

7June

We are playing follow the leader in Spiddle (Spidéal in Irish)–does the leader know where we are going? After a few stops to let traffic pas and one turn around to get to our destination, we reached the desired craft shops ^,^ and had lunch in Spiddle.

From Spiddle, we drove leisurely towards Clifden, taking the road less traveled, into the “wilds” of southwest Ireland. Rugged (rocky, but not lacking in vegetation), windswept beauty abound as we traversed the narrow, hedge-rowed or rock-walled roads. It is easy to see how it would be hard to get much in the way of crops growing in so little soil and so many rocky obstacles. There were not many places to pull over, so when we found one that would accommodate our two vehicles, we took advantage…in the wet and windy weather.

Dinner was in Clifden, before we did more shopping in the local gift shops…then we were off again–almost 9pm to head for the Castle. An hour later, daylight making its last effort to illuminate the sky (it boggles my mind as to how long the sky stays light–4:30am-11pm-ish!!), we pull in–and I make a mad-dash for our room and relief!! (*way* too much water, hot chocolate and soup today–oye!).

After some lovely music, courtesy of our host & leader, I am so ready for bed, but needed to get this down on paper before I collapsed! Midnight. Sigh.

Good night, all. Tomorrow is a new day–and our last full one together as a group–before we head back to Dublin to go our separate ways. Seven will be heading out on planes, two of us to the hotel to cool our jets till Sunday flight–turns out we are on the same flight to Chicago! Anna lives in Southern California, I’ll head for San Francisco. It has been so much fun–wouldn’t change a thing…other than make it last longer!

Playing Catch-up

We are having troubles with internet connections, so multiple-day entries seem to be the norm…sorry…
3 June 2012

Well rested, coffee in hand, we had our fearless leader, Marc, wait upon us–he made us our first Irish breakfast! And, we talked about the plans for the next few days. Galway today, Aran Islands for tomorrow, Kylemore Abbey for the next day. LOL…we were going out at 10am today…it’s now 11:19 and we are nowhere near being ready, nor inclined to leave. This place is way too comfortable and inviting to leave…Marc just remarked we will be leaving in 45 minutes. There was a laugh…and a comment, “we’ll leave when we walk out the door?” He laughed. We’ll see what happens. Laid-back seems to be the order of the day and I, for one, am NOT complaining.
The internet connection seems to be very picky. I had a signal earlier this morning, but now, nothing (or if there’s a signal, it’s one bar). I am on one side of the dining table and have no connection, others on the side near the outer wall seem to have a perfectly good connection. So, this will be sent later.
We drove (about an hour?) into Galway and wandered on the river’s edge watching a kayak water polo, then up onto the historic K Street (to buy touristy stuff) and had lunch in a fish n’ chips place.  Yummy!
After visiting downtown, we came back and had a two-hour tea with the Lady & Lord of the manor (castle).  The rest of the day was “free” to kick back and overcome the jet lag (only three of us had been here long enough to have dealt with it already).  I went out and took photos on the property, in the drizzle.  This is an amazing  property!  I am in heaven.  A lake.  Beautiful gardens, stone walls…majestic trees.  I wish we could stay longer…or at least spend more down time.  We are off during the day touring around and by the end of the day, we crash, listen to Marc play his autograph, sipping on some free ‘left-over’ Bulmer’s (cider) and Beamish (dark stout) on tap — from a wedding that had happened the day before we arrived.  Nice little perk.
4 June
SUN ALL DAY! ^,^
This was a very good thing, as we were going to be out in the weather ALL day.  We drove to the ferry about an hour west of Galway to spend the day on Aran Island.  The plan was to walk as far as we could.  Tour bus drivers kept hawking their services and we shrugged them off, confident we’d have no problem.  One stopped (as we were shy of a mile out of the village) and handed Marc his business card so we could call when we gave up — we still had the resolve to ‘do it ourselves’.  We went a bit further and my foot found a pothole…I twisted my ankle and fell down–but no worries…I was fine.  Pants were torn because of my metal brace (which thankfully protected my bad knee from anything worse than a bit of a scrape) and we continued on.  It was so beautiful–millions of photo ops–you will see the photos one of these days (but the internet connection is so poor I can’t get anything uploaded, so photos will have to wait till I get to a solid connection).  As we continued our walk, everyone realized our expectations were a bit too unrealistic so when the driver passed us once more, Marc waved him down and we all crawled onto the tour bus to complete our adventure.  He dropped us off at the foot of the Cliffs where we had our lunch and talked about walking up to the Cliffs.  I decided it would be suicide for me to make the attempt, so I stayed behind as they all headed up.  There were shops to browse in–I made a couple purchases and kicked back to elevate my legs.  Our driver told us, among other things, that the Aran Island shifted from the Cliffs of Mohr to it’s present location, which explains the similarities in the rocky terrain.  Later this week, we will be going to the Cliffs of Mohr — by boat.  At a designated time, the driver showed up once more and we dragged ourselves into the van and he finished the tour of the island and deposited us at the ferry for our return trip.

When our car finally made it back home, exhausted, our guest musicians, Tania Opland & Mike Freeman, had just arrived.  Marc’s car load showed up about a half-hour later with a restock of groceries and pizza for our dinner.  Tania & Mike joined in with Marc, playing and singing to entertain us.  It was a wonderful evening, but since we were all so tired, lights were out about 11pm!

5 June 2012

No internet once again.  

EXHAUSTION…all slept in after our very strenuous day and late night.  We had a late start today…recovering from yesterdays travels.  Drove via N59 to Kylemore Abbey.  Rain, drizzle, mist throughout the day.  ‘Attack of the Midges’ kept us from fully enjoying the Gardens.  We should have been clued in (well, we were, but didn’t realize they’d be that bad!) by people using their programs to wave off the no-see-’ems…We did a very quick tour of the grounds and made a run for the Abbey to escape the midges.  Nice tour describing the history of the beautiful building & it’s various occupants, then we came back to the gift shop & left behind a fair amount of euros.

Then, after some non-discussion (don’t ask), we were on the road, heading toward Clifden to look for electronics … our car stopped in the tiny town of Moyard, to visit Nancy’s airplane seat-mate.  She had been invited for tea if we were in the area, so she gave her a call when we literally drove passed her front door (while driving on N59) and our car-full of four enjoyed a 20+ minute stay with a local.  Her hospitality was delightful and her home was simply furnished and right on the coast.  Her garden led down to the water–because of the midges, we were disinclined to explore the garden for long.  It was neat to see the inside of an Irish home and chat with a local.  She uses peat as fuel for her fireplace (heat for the house)–if any of you are familiar with the taste/smell of whiskey from the Island regions of Scotland, the smell of the smoke is quite reminiscent of that.  Just a wee bit stronger…not unpleasant alt all.

After gracefully excusing ourselves, we had to be back at the Castle by 8pm, we piled back into the car, reset our demon-possessed GPS and headed back to Ross Castle…about an hours drive from where we were.

Almost as soon as we got on the road, we got a call from Marc (they’d split from us after Kylemore Abbey & went ahead to Clifden for the electronics).  Our connection was spotty (dropped call, then breaking up–so, hard to understand what they were trying to say).  They’d apparently just left Clifden & told us they’d not make it back by the 8pm time–so said their GPS (apparently another demon-possessed machine!)  But I wasn’t really understanding their reason for not making it back.  Finally, he just told us to stop in Clifden & wait for them.  Which we did…not really understanding why.  Once they showed up, they explained it’d be 3-hours before we could get back to the Castle…when questioned, they recalculated & realized it would only take an hour (our GPS was actually accurate for once!), so instead of having dinner in Clifden, we headed back to the Castle, having a good laugh on the way.  There were many photo ops we passed up out of fatigue and a driving desire to be back at the Castle…where we had a delightful dinner of spaghetti made by Marc.  Yum!  And then, we had an even more delightful evening of music by Tania and Mike.  We were up listening to them until well after midnight.  I think Marc finally went down to his room close to 1am, and people slowly trickled back to their rooms up until around 2:30-3…I for one, melted into bed around 2:15…

6 June 2012

We woke to cloudy skies, soon followed by rain — once again…the norm.  No complaints — that’s why it is soooo very beautifully green here.  It is now noon and the sun has been playing tag with the clouds.  I think the rain is done for now — but I’m certainly not guaranteeing it!  The plan for today was to head out around 11 am — but I really don’t think anyone is pushing to get moving.  Not even Marc.  Everyone is playing catch up from our last two busy days — and LATE evenings.  My internal alarm clock has me waking with the sun at 5am, rolling over till 7 and pulling myself out of bed to make–and consume–coffee by 7:30…

We have had breakfast, Marc was sprawled out on the couch for a bit and has now disappeared downstairs and everyone else is either writing or working (in one form or another) with their computers — for some reason, some of us are able to access the internet, while others (me) cannot.  I am resigned to the fact that I can’t get much done on line…it’s as quiet as a library in here…an occasional bit of conversation, then quiet again.  I don’t think we’re getting enough coffee…lol.  Everyone is wandering off in various directions (some out to take photos of the grounds), while others remain tethered to their computers.

Two-in-one

Oh, got busy yesterday and forgot to post my musings, so here are two days (an early bit from the crack of dawn this morning & yesterday’s) — you may want to read from bottom up to say with the timeline, but it is your choice:

2June12
Alright. That fine. I’ll just have to put the blame directly where it belongs!  It’s now 3am and I’m completely awake.  Dublin, it’s all your fault.

Hmmm.  Not unlike a tiny crack in a dam wall,  it started out with a wee little thought–I was half asleep then, not even aware that it had crept into the room. But as my mind started to nurse that little thing, weaving it, pulling it back and beginning again…never fully advancing beyond its beginnings — that’s when my mind began to fully engage, trying to direct it here and there so that it might make sense. I could hear a lilt in the voice that didn’t sound true, so my mind sat up and looked around to see who it might be.

I’m thinking it’s the Writers of Dublin, all having a nice little chat in my head, trying to tell me to get off my keester and get this story of mine done–and to fully engage in my writer/storyteller side.

Now, I know what I just wrote probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but I’ll post it anyway, since it rings true — in my mind, at least (now you’re sure this one’s gone a wee bit off–LOL!)

In about seven hours, we will off, in our adventure into and beyond Galway. I’m looking forward too it, but a few more hours if sleep would be very nice, thank you!  So I’m off to make an attempt. Night–or should I say, ‘mornin’ to ya.  ^o~

1June12
It’s just 9am. I’ve checked out of the hostel (they will hold my luggage for €1,25 so I don’t have to lug it around with me–yay).   The weather is a lot like at home: cool and overcast, with the feel of rain hanging in the air.  Indoors is too warm for me. I am thoroughly enjoying the chilly fresh air. I do have my sweater with me, but doubt I’ll use it. The long sleeved shirt that I use as a “jacket” is more than enough…and when inside, that comes off.

Today is my last “free” day before my tour begins.  I will be making full use of my hop on-hop off privileges today, as I need to be nice to my knee–the walk into the City Center area was not fun.   Yesterday’s tour “guide was Damien–there are apparently thee of them!!  I don’t remember which one, though,

Breakfast at LaPizza was good: scrambled eggs, tomato & cucumber, toast, coffee and OJ. Perfect way to start the day.

It is also the beginning of a challenging new project — 365: A Photo Journal. I will endeavor to take one photo a day, for the next year, to document a “day in the life” of your truly.  This is a project being done worldwide. Some will post on a dedicated site.  Others, like me, will keep it more local. I have established a login for the site, but just not sure I want to go global.

As I’ve mentioned before, taking a photo should not be an issue–choosing which one and finding the right title–and remembering to post, will be the challenge.

Well, polishing off the last bit of coffee, then off to begin my adventure today.

Things I’m missing because I am tied to a tour:  Dublin Grand Prix, Dublin Writers Festival…There can be a lot said for spontaneity. all of my previous trips have been “unscheduled”, allowing for whatever comes up. So it is with a sad heart that I found out about these two events!  But after a brief “mourning”, I am over it!

Political signage is something new for me this time around.  A very important referendum was scheduled for 31May, regarding the issue of the EU’s euro.  And the billboards and posters are everywhere, urging voters one way or the other.  I haven’t listened to the news to find out how it turned out, but I’m sure the decision was historic.  Must find a newspaper!

Cheers!