Nearing the End…

IT’S AMAZING HOW fast time flies. As I write this, the week has literally flown by and it’s nearly time for the CIVers to say adieu to each other. Most of them will be heading back to the States on Saturday or Sunday. I get to hang around for another three and a half weeks (teehee).

This blog will be fairly short, but I’m going to add a few photos from the week to you. I hope you enjoy them…

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I’m loving the rivers and lakes in the Snowdonia Mountain range. Amazing, really. The lake and the newly emerging frond are from Snowdonia. The center photo was taken along the edge of Cae Mabon. It’s like a fairytale village, really. I could spend much more time here.

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Cae Mabon (an eco retreat)-main lodge and their storyteller, Eric; lovely tree at the top edge of Cae Mabon; one of the cottages at the retreat.

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Cae Mabon beautiful vegetation, boats in Caernafron–near the Castle, (who knew I’d forget so fast where these places are??) unknow scenery along the western coastline in Wales (sorry)

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Dublin River, Conwy Castle (that “bridge” is very small) and the river I’m blanking on the town name for this one on the right.

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Two hostel bedrooms (left at the western edge of Ireland, right at Dublin), plus my hotel grounds at sunset in Malahide, Ireland

Tomorrow, we pack up from our lovely little cottage in Bryngwrang and move onto an overnight stay in Mold (don’t laugh–that’s actually the name of the town). We have to be on the road by 10 am…maybe? Since Saturday, we have managed to cover most of the coastline of northern Wales, above and below the Holyhead island, plus some inland areas–either by mistake–Marc will not admit to it and absolutely nobody is complaining (it’s always worked well into the plans) or by design. It’s nice that the itinerary is loose.

This area is magnificent. Rugged. Picturesque…and just flat out gorgeous, whether a city or town, or countryside. I’m contemplating altering my plans to visit Edinburgh and cozy up into some neat little hotel till I’m due in the London area around 8 June. I’ll have to make by decision by tomorrow night at the latest. You will find out sometime next week…

I now have another area to add to my list that I have fallen madly in love with…what’s a girl to do?

Traveling Alone In A Car…

TRAVELING ALONE DEFINITELY HAS it’s drawbacks, but overall, it’s still a lovely experience. Traveling alone in a country you don’t know can be daunting, if you let it–especially in a car, driving on the “wrong” side of the road.

In 2007, when I came over with my then 19-year-old daughter, I ‘d been driving a manual transmission vehicle back home, so the transition from driving on the right side of the road to the left was a bit more complex. Not only was I groping for the seat belt over the wrong shoulder, but I kept searching for the shift mechanism and mirrors with the wrong hand. It took a day of constant reminders to make my right and left turns correctly, in addition to the ‘nagivator’s’ (my endearment for my navigator) warnings that I headed to the wrong side of the road–no near misses, thankfully.

Since about 2010, I’ve been driving an automatic, and I think that has made the transition much easier. About two weeks or so prior to departure, I began a mantra in my head every time I turned: “Left near, right far”. It seems to have worked. I have had no problems with turns, nor with locations of anything. Except an occasional lapse with the seat belt. I can deal with that.

My reason for having a car for this trip was so I could go where ever I wanted, whenever I pleased. So far, this has worked beautifully. But being alone means I’m the driver all of the time. No time in the passenger seat, admiring the scenery. My attention is always split between the view and the business of driving. And, fantastic photo ops come up…and pass me by because there is no place to pull off–there are very few shoulders to pull off into in the country (or the city, for that matter!) and by the time you find something, there’s no way to make your way back by foot. Walking along the road can be a very hazardous venture. Now I know why those that do wear the bright vests you see on workers stateside.

This week, I am on a quest: to find a specific type of scene that I might use as a cover for my third book. I need rubble from the ruins (plenty of those) with trees growing up and around them (plenty of those, too)–just need to find them together, in a spot I can actually get to.

I have yet to find that specific view…but I have definitely experienced some very interesting times on the road–because my GPS is not been working (worked beautifully up until the day I needed to get down into the southern part of Dublin to catch the ferry over to Wales). It wouldn’t zero in on anything–showing me driving ‘off-road’, as it were…so, seat of the pants driving, lots of errors in turns and a cool head (as cool as possible after a zillion wrong turns) finally got me to the Hertz office to turn the car in, unload my stuff and hail a taxi to get to the ferry. I left with a huge (we’re talking hours) window…and ended up with only a half hour before passengers were to load. Well, I made it. I was able to relax on the 2.75 hr ride to Wales…spending some of the time trying to figure out why it failed. I’ve given up–tried all the obvious (turned it off and on, removed the sim card, replaced it, removed it again, wiped it down, replaced it…). I really don’t know why it’s not working. I’m not going to worry about it.

Then again, here in the UK. Still no GPS and no verbal or written directions on the iPhone. Just basic map. It’s been interesting driving without electronic guidance, but it’s been doable–people did it for so long before wifi and GPS…I figured, certainly I could do it. A few chats with locals, paying attention to sighs…and everything was good.

And, remember the comment about photo ops? Well, I’ve been excited with all of the beautiful things I’ve seen–and captured digitally. There are other things, like the bridge I saw out of the corner of my eye, that haven’t been captured–yet. It was one of those “I-wanna-stop-right-here-in-the-middle-of-the-road” moments to gaze upon this gorgeous bridge off in the distance in lower Wales, just north of Holyhead, parallel with the Britannia Bridge (that’s the one I was driving on). I will have to check it out on my drive back. This is when I wish I had been the passenger and was able to snap a few shots. But now, I will go on a mini-quest to find it and get some really nice shots.

It’s getting awfully late and I have an early rise tomorrow, so I’ll leave you with this blog to mull over until next time. I will post some photos later, too!

Good night all. Enjoy.

The Beat Goes On…Time, Travels and Troubles

THE CLOCK IS TICKING, THE SAND is tumbling through the hourglass…and time is running out. Such clichés…but so appropriate.

By the time you read this, I will have scurried around up to the last second (literally) with my to-do list, getting ready for my trip. Gathering together all that I needed (and a few wants and a couple gifts for friends along the way) for my trip, I managed to get myself to the San Francisco airport on time, catch my planes (connection included). But I did forget a few things, too, but nothing I cannot live without or purchase over here in Ireland if I truly need it (like a polypropylene knee sleeve and more Tylenol..even if I can only get )…

Finally, I am where I’ve craved to be for a year or more: in beautiful, albeit chilly and somewhat damp, but gloriously green Ireland–three days into it and thoroughly enjoying myself. There’s been a bit of rain, even though the forecasted weather showed much more than we’ve had (for this, I am very glad). I’m having so much fun that I am reluctant to take the time to post a long entry. What I will do is to tell you about some excitement I had today…that should keep you happy for a bit.

Well, you know I’m a photographer and perhaps some of you know that I’m an easy ‘touch’–I love to give to others, so when a young lady approached me begging for money for nappies (diapers) and milk, we struck a bargain–no cash, but we’d go and pick some up at the chemist and I’d pay for them. I’d just traipsed all over the Quay, the Docks and beyond, taking photos (a little over 4.5 miles) and my knee and feet were havin’ a rather loud discussion with me when she approached me, so she waited patiently for the ‘chatter’ to quiet down a bit before we headed out. Had we left a wee bit earlier, or even later, all would have been quiet.

First, I must tell my friends (for I have not posted this on my Facebook page–you are the first to hear about it) that I’m fine. I’m safe and all is well.

We were on our way, taking a short cut through Druid Lane, on the way to Quay Lane where there was a Boots (sort of like a CVS, but smaller) when a whole lot of testosterone exploded.

Four young men rushed past us, not paying any attention to what they were doing (brushing us as they passed), and a fourth (from behind us) yelled for them to stop. He shouted a number of times–and I thought it was a policeman until he ran past. It was another young man with testosterone bursting from the seams: shoulders all hunched up, fists clenched away from his sides…not a good sign. I almost stepped forward to tell them to stop this nonsense–which it really was–who does this…really. I’ve only seen it in movies. But, I thought better of it and stepped back a bit, out of their way.

They tried to ignore him, but he was looking for a fight with one of the four and jumped him when they turned to leave. Quite a few punches were thrown before he pulled away and grabbed a chair to smack his opponent. The chair splintered into quite a few pieces–some flying in our direction. He picked up one of the larger pieces and hit him again. Good grief.

Mind you–photographer–right? I’m glad I hadn’t pulled the camera up to snap any photos–there would have been a few pretty spectacular shots if I’d pulled it off right, but I would have hated to lose the camera…or worse…to any of these hooligans.

Then, the aggressor called on his chums when the other guys stepped forward in his defense–I didn’t realize there were more behind us…oops. Definitely in the thick of it. They came rushing past us, grabbing the splintered bits as weapons to defend their friend as the business owner of the chair came out (I was telling another store owner they should call the police at that point). He yelled at them and they all ran away.

The other business owners of the alley gathered up all the debris, shaking their heads. And it was business as usual. All quiet on Druid Lane.

And then we headed for Boots for the nappies and milk (she snuck in a few other goodies, like baby bottle and wipes–with permission) and each of us went our own way. I went to a nice warm and quiet pub (Kings Head Pub) to ease my aching knee and feet–and to get sustenance in the form of Irish Stew. I must say, I recommend it highly (though, you may want to add a wee bit of salt)–a huge serving, meaty to a fault with lovely, delicious homemade bread (which I later found out had oat in it–oops. I’m allergic to oat. I knew it was too good to be good for me).





Time Flies…

THERE’S AN OLD SAYING, “TIME flies when you’re having fun.” Well, it also flies when you get older. It seems I’m finding that I must plan more time to accomplish the same tasks I’ve done in the past in a shorter time…

My trip to the UK and Ireland is a perfect example. I started two months ago, gathering together and organizing the things I wanted to take along, planning my route, scheduling hotels, etc. Either my life has become far more complicated than in the past (not!) or there’s been a change in the time continuum…

I cannot seem to be as efficient as I have been in the past. Perhaps it’s too many things going on in my life that clutter up and stall my progress. Perhaps it’s just that I’m slowing down (to smell the roses, right?) or finding myself more easily distracted–or is it that I’m just getting old? Whatever it is, it is seriously hampering me in getting things done in a timely fashion.

What does one do when that happens? I resort to lists. It helps keep my focus where it needs to be. I’ve always been a ‘list’ person–well, at least since my mid 20’s (oh, my…that was quite some time ago). Lists help me stay organized, even if I stray from them now and then. Well, most of the time (insert shake of head in the negative…)

Hmmm…perfect timing. I just saw a post of Facebook that hit me square between the eyes. “We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” (Calvin & Hobbes) Am I keeping my eye too far ahead of myself to enjoy that which is right in front of my nose? I hope not. Perhaps that’s why things are taking me longer. I’m taking the time to just sit in the moment, enjoying what’s around me, ignoring my lists. So, maybe I just need to chill more and stay in the moment. Things will get done–eventually. The trip will happen and life will go on.

Remember to stop and smell the roses right where you are. God put them for you to enjoy. Now.

Looks Like Rain…

I’M ENJOYING THIS WEIRDLY WARM weather here on the Central Coast of California. Thursday’s high was 89.1, down about 74.5 (78 inside still, but coming down slowly) as I wrote this. Tomorrow (Friday) will cool a little more (80-ish), and even more over the weekend–almost back to the “normal”, but not quite…then it goes back up again. But, this doesn’t mean I’ll not be happy when cooler weather (aka: our ‘normal’ summer) comes, though…with this drought, I’m not really sure if it will arrive..

Though it’s too far out to see what weather I will have in store in Ireland, it’s 51-58 (F) and rain most days through the 11th (last day it shows). That will be a nice change after a week of off-and-on very hot weather. Unless there’s a drastic change in weather, I’m sure I’ve gotta make sure I pack a few long sleeve shirts and a sweater 😉 plus my umbrella and maybe my rain slicker. (Probably won’t get much use out of the capris I just purchased, but I’ll take them, just in case.) The coolness and wetness will not hamper my travels at all. I’ll revel in it. The only thing it might effect is the amount of photographs I can get without damaging my camera. I may resort to iPhone or point ‘n shoot to protect my good camera, but I *will* get my shots in.

I’ve got my route roughly figured out: Dublin to Galway, then follow the coast to Sligo (I will be visiting a Facebook friend–John is growing a labrynth and I’m anxious to see how it’s progressing) to somewhere along the north coast of Ireland or N Ireland to Dublin–haven’t decided exactly where yet (I’ll stick with the coast route all the way back to Dublin). Dublin to Holyhead, Wales (via ferry, as foot passenger) to Manchester, England–meet up with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group (headed by a capable Marc Gunn, Celtic Musician-tour organizer and guide Extraordinaire) to visit many points in Wales, then back to Manchester (say farewell to the group and hire another car to travel to Edinburgh (a favorite), Scotland and the northern coast (want to check out the Gunn Clan’s castle and history center), then to the outskirts of London to visit a friend, Natalie and her family (I’ve been invited to stay in their guest room). They will give me the ‘grand tour’ of London and surrounding areas, I believe. I may spend another day in a hostel in downtown London to hopefully meet up with a writer friend, Vickie Johnstone (she writes in several genre–childrens and thriller). Then it’s back to Holyhead. Holyhead to Dublin (foot passenger again on the ferry) with day trips to Cork and other areas in the southern portion–and of course lots of travel around one of my favorite cities, Dublin before I am forced to catch my return flight home.

Whew! And yet, six weeks is not enough time to thoroughly enjoy myself. Next time, I may look into sticking to one place for six weeks (or more) and use the time as a writing retreat–but I’ll still make sure I get some tromping around in the countryside to take photographs. A must. I just love the ruins, the history of the country.

And I cannot forget the people. All along the way, I plan on cultivating friendships wherever possible. These (Ireland and Scotland specifically) are countries I have fallen in love with and wish to connect on a more personal level.

Right now, I’m working on hostel room (or couchsurfing–I’m fine with this too and it keeps the cost down) reservations, but not concerned (I’ve got the important ones–first, last and a few nights in between–all taken care of). There shouldn’t be too much problem booking. Most of the time, all I have to do is book the next hostel when I check in at the current one.

I can *almost* count on my fingers how many days before my travels begin. I’ll be doing a little bit of fine tuning in these last few weeks–making sure I have all the electronic accessories I need (oh, my–it gets worse every time I travel!)–I’m taking my GPS this time since I won’t have a ‘nagivator’ to assist me. I love my GPS. I just purchased a new suitcase (the old one had a wonky wheel that made a horrendous noise) but plan only to fill my smaller suitcase and stuff it inside for the trip over (hope it fits in my cars). The larger one will be for “overflow” of gifts and purchases for myself. I’m not going to get caught trying to cram all my goodies into the small suit case like I’ve done before. The smaller one is small enough to use as a carry on, so if I am limited to one suitcase as checked baggage, I’m set. My backpack then becomes my ‘personal’ item, which will include my purse and camera equipment and GPS.

I’m nearly set. Wheeee.