VACATION BLOG: WEEK TWO Dublin, Galway and County Donegal

TECHNOLOGY IS MY FRIEND … NOT (insert eyes rolling to the back of the head …)—at least where GPS and pay-as-you-go phones are concerned!

Oh, dear. I was not successful in getting Gabby to do her thing—at all— and decided I’d simply buy a new one. And I could not get the old iPhone to work (for Sandy) with a local SIM card … I’ve clocked in so many hours trying to get things to work together—I’m so blessed that Sandy hasn’t killed me yet. We’ve been connected at the hips for entirely too long <giggle> As for the phones … yeah. Things haven’t gone as planned and we now have two Eir (Irish) phones that we’ll change SIM cards when we arrive in the UK (tomorrow). We can talk and text as needed—we’re not chained to each other as we’ve been the last week. Talk about liberating—for both of us!

Gabby-2 is working fairly well, though she doesn’t know the English names of Irish towns and I’m unfamiliar with the Irish names, so we’re having a wee bit of a problem there—but she’s gotten us to where we need to be so far. But occasionally she sends us in circles (no, not the roundabouts—literally sends us around the block (and once into a dead end street. At least I was able to figure that one out quickly.) Knowing where I’m going makes me a happier person.

On the upside, I’ve managed to achieve a goal—I’ve gone over 1,200 steps several times in our walk-abouts in the first week. This is excellent and hopefully it will continue to be the norm throughout our entire trip. With a lack of internet, I haven’t had a good handle on steps on a whole (but will after I send this blog out).

We had a grand time in Dublin (a few hiccups due to technology and some short days for the same reason) using the Hop On-Hop Off tour bus to get us around the town and to spots we wanted to check out. Photos will be added later (when we have a decent wifi connection). We were on to Galway where we wandered the streets, down by the docks and up the touristy quarter—and, yes, we helped the economy <wink> nicely. I’ve already a few gifts filling my luggage. Three days of poking around (and finally had the technology issues fairly well sorted out—yay), taking pictures and noshing on lovely food … yes, we liked Galway. Still no pub grub—I really must remedy that.

When we arrived at the hostel in County Donegal (pronounce Donny-gaul)—at the Blue Stack Centre Hostel (this is one that Gabby-2 refused to give directions to, so I did a bit of a work-around to get us in the general area), lugged our baggage into the hostel … to find that they accidentally double booked a large group of teens atop our reservations, so there was no room for us. The hostel folk were so kind—they managed to find an accommodation in Frosses (not too far away) at an AirBnB for two nights. It was lovely—much better than what we would have had. Except … no wifi. So, we came back to the hostel for Friday night (the 25th) only to discover that I’m connected to the wifi, but so far … no internet connection. So I’m not really sure when this blog entry will actually happen. Hopefully we can get it sorted out very soon and you’ll get it at some point on Friday. Otherwise, I’ll just have to try again when we go to our accommodation in Bushmills, N. Ireland on Saturday (26th).

We finally had a lovely pub dinner in Donegal—absolutely lovely. I had a venison stew (drool …) and Sandy had the Irish cheeseburger (local beef and cheese). Sandy had a white wine recommended by the bartender (owner) and I had the Donegal Stout (“dark-rich-smooth”—yes indeed!!!) We left very comfortably full. And had to rush over to the chemist to buy some stuff before they closed at 6—all the stores closed at 6pm, or no later than 6:15—on a Friday! I’m so used to later hours.

Perhaps I’ll add some photos if the connection improves, but I’m thinking this is it till I can get ahold of my notes (all on the iPhone—insert eye-roll—which is usually not a problem). SIGH. Well, I do have a good connection—I hope. I’ll try to add to them a little later this today (it’s already 4:20pm on Saturday here).

Next week we’ll be back in Dublin to see a few things we missed on the first go around, then hop on the Stena Lines Ferry to Wales where we will be meeting up with two new friends: Jo and Ian (you can meet them too if you go to their Something Vloggy Patreon site (I’m working on setting up one for my business). I think I’ll enjoy meeting these two. Then, up to West Yorkshire to meet another new friend: Anne Lister. Another one I’m thinking I’ll feel right at home with.

So, until next Friday … or sometime around then … slainté (good health) and blessings. Now to go get caught up on my Facebook page—FB is so nice … on my iPhone, it says I have “9+” notifications. Probably close to one hundred <insert dazed stare> Laughing nervously …

Hawthorne Blooms??

Tight Fit in Bunk Bed ...

Blue Stack Centre Hostel bunks are a wee bit low …

English Daisies in Donegal So Many Choices ... street signsOh … I give up for now. Half loaded sideways. I’ll need to do some — there’s that technology monster rearing his head again!

… And We’re Off and Running!

SO … THE JOURNEY HAS begun for Sandy and me. And did it ever start out with a bang—our plane had a tyre with low pressure and it needed to be attended to. They tried to get the pressure up to snuff, but that wasn’t working (that took us about 45 minutes beyond our departure time) … and when that didn’t work, they realised they’d need to replace the tyre. Things got a bit timey-wimey whilst they went off to find a tyre … then install and test it, plus (of course) paperwork to complete, but finally (after about 2.5 hours) we were back on “schedule”. Our 11:50am arrival time on the 17th was pushed to 1:30-ish. In the end, it was closer to 2pm, leaving quite a few passengers anxious about connecting flights. (Which, by the way, I feel Aer Lingus handled brilliantly.) All Sandy and I had to worry about was making sure we had wheels to get-about with whilst in Ireland. We let those connecting-flights get off before us, then started to get off the plane when three wheel chairs came down the ramp for those of us requiring them. My attendant went well beyond what others had done in the past. I usually get “dumped” at the baggage claim, then I’m on my own. This young lady took us all the way to the Car Rental lot and I didn’t get off the wheel chair till we were literally in front of the car. (Well done!!) I’m happy to use Hertz—it may not be the cheapest, but they’ve been very good to me in the past, and they didn’t fail us with this bit of a wrench in the plans.

Next bit to throw us off was my little GPS (Gabby—but she wasn’t …) decided she was not going to talk to us. Rather cheeky little thing. (I checked her out prior to departure and she was working just fine). She simply told us to get to M-1 so she could direct us. She never redirected us when I didn’t get into the desired road. Thankfully I was vaguely familiar with the area and, though we never got into what she felt was the right street, we apparently paralleled her route in the downtown area and made it safely—well … there was one block of driving the wrong way on a very quiet one-way street, but I got that sorted out right away and we made it in one piece. (Poor Sandy—she’s a very patient soul.)
I love Dublin—and the area we are in. Mountjoy St., where the hostel is located, has a lovely ancient church with a beautiful spired steeple just a block or two down from the hostel (photos will happen in the next blog, since we were exhausted from a very long flight and time change). The hostel itself has a small church attached, which has been turned into the dining all. We have a Spar (kind of like a 7-11 in the States, but no petrol station attached) just across a very quiet street—same street we drove down to get into the car park at the hostel.
We settled into our room then walked over to get dinner makings—almost bought stuff requiring cooking, but decided we were too tired for that. I was more tired than hungry, so we simply purchased a pre-made sandwich, some grapes and blueberries and shared all of it. We discovers like and dislikes in food—apparently we both love blueberries enough to challenge Violet (from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) at being the biggest and bluest berry that the Umpa Lumpa’s would be rolling off to their presses … <insert mischievous grin> and I love yogurt, but she does not—same with mushrooms.
With dishes cleaned up, we got the wifi code, grabbed some crafting tools and settled into the dining hall to get Sandy an e-membership at the HI hostels (didn’t work—for a number of reasons, including forgetting the credit card … we’ll try again later) and for a quick lesson in putting signatures together (blocks of pages that are sewn together to make the pages of a book) for our travel journals. That didn’t last long, as my mind was muddled (as was Sandy’s) from fatigue and I couldn’t answer or show her how to do it properly <insert eye roll—and serious amount of yawning> … so we packed up our supplies and went back to our room at 9pm to retire for the night.
Today is Friday—a new day and the real beginning of two and a half month journey. Today is a “chill day” so we can recover from our jet lag (I slept in to 9am!), we will do a walk-about around Dublin and use the Hop On-Hop Off Tour Bus to venture into areas we can’t get to by foot. We’ve three nights (one’s already under our belts) to explore before moving on to Galway and beyond. We are going to have a wonderful time—whether Gaby helps us or not! Have a blessed Friday and weekend and join us again next Friday for another chapter in our journey.
Cheers and Slainté!

Departure Time Looming!

SO MANY LITTLE THINGS that are so easy to forget! As the “organiser” of a trip for more than just me this year, I’ve more of a responsibility to be more organised. To have all my ducks in a row. I’ve been trying to juggle home, yard, book and trip. I think it’s time to let go of the house and yard, tuck “book” away by putting the manuscript into my bag and stop trying to edit until the trip begins … and focus completely on the trip. There are quite a few important “little things” that should be dealt with before we step onto the plane. Things like car rental (usually have that done by now), map out the first couple weeks of sightseeing and set up one more accommodation … (again—usually done by now …) plus figure out when we’ll do the event (ceihli) at the Jameson Distillery in Dublin—there will be three opportunities: in the first couple days, just before heading over to the UK or once we return to Dublin (a day or so prior to our return home) … now to figure that one out.
And there’s the ritual of packing, unpacking, repacking, packing—ad nauseam till I’ve got it down to the least amount of stuff. Also something I’ve usually started to do—but have not.
Time is quickly dwindling down to time-to-leave, but not quite yet—thankfully. I’m getting my pre-trip jitters and excitement is … well, let’s just say the level is up there (insert enormous grin).

There’s one more book/art event I’ll be squeezing in before my departure—actually, more of a meet and greet, letting the public know I’m still here, as an artist and writer. I will have my books available for purchase, but plan on demonstrating a little bit of book arts—working on creating (at least starting) a couple small books for artwork and journaling for our trip. Joyce and I will be in one of the Aromas gardens on Saturday (12 May), for the Aromas Hills Artisan’s Country Garden Tour from 10am-4pm. If you are in the area, come to the Aromas Grange to pick up the map so you can poke around some delightful gardens, beautiful artwork … and (of course) find the two local authors.

Aaaah—before I forget, I’d like to wish all mothers, mothers-to-be and mothers-in-waiting and -wanting a blessed and joyous Mother’s Day! May it be filled to overflowing with precious memories!

Until next week, have a blessed Friday and weekend! Cheers!

Travel Blog: Week One, Part Two

{Well … I was wondering why this was sitting in the draft “pile”. Guess I forgot to combine the one I ended up posting with this one, so you get two blogs today <insert sheepish grin …> Bear with me … I’ll eventually edit and combine the two together so this isn’t permanently plopped into the middle of the trip. Oopsie. So sorry.}

ON MY MARK, GET SET … GO! THE TRIP HAS BEGUN! Sandy’s husband was so kind as to cart us up to the San Francisco airport (thank you, John!!), where we caught a 5:30pm flight to Dublin. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never taken Aer Lingus, so it was a new experience. As much as I love to take pictures of the clouds—I have such a plethora of clouds-from-a-plane photos—I would much rather have an aisle seat so that I can get up and stretch. I really didn’t know what to expect in the way of seating—whether it would be like packed sardines or if there would be much in the way of leg room (after all, Aer Lingus is a no-frills airline…). Yes, that meant I needed to accommodate the window and middle seat passengers, but I’d much prefer the ease of getting up to stretch or use the WC. Yup … definitely.

Sandy sat in the aisle seat across from me (and we have the same set-up for our return flight). Both flights are non-stop—something I’d recommend, if you can afford it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s well worth the extra expense for peace of mind. No dealing with rushing to catch the next leg of the journey … or missed or cancelled connecting flights. Definitely worth it.

We arrived on Thursday, 17 May around noon—I was a little preoccupied with deplaning (grabbing my carry-on), grabbing baggage and finding our rental car to take notice. Our ticket says 11:50am as an arrival time—a little over ten hours in the air. How did I fare flying with Aer Lingus?

Thursday was spent getting settled in and adjusting to the 8-hour time change (extra hours, mind you … so an extra long day). And I had to juggle when to take my medicines—that’s always fun. Departure/arrival day is always a jumble where my medications are concerned (insert big eye-roll here—haha). At least there are only two pills that are prescriptions (and the doses are low enough that taking sooner than scheduled—or even later—is not a bad/harmful thing. Hopefully my doctors never hear about the weird scheduling I always end up doing (insert eye-roll … teehee). Friday—aaack … that’s today—is our first full day in Dublin and I will be back on schedule medicine-wise. And we will begin our exploring slowly—working up our stamina for all that walking (insert sheepish grin). I am so excited to finally get to Dublin (and Ireland/UK in general) and show Sandy all the neat things there are to see! Sadly, even with two and a half months, we will not see everything, since it is, of course, a leisurely trip.

I wish you a blessed Friday and weekend. Hopefully there will be a good internet connection to get this blog out to you on schedule! Until next Friday and the second installment of our travels—slainté!

Traveling with Friends

TRAVEL IS NIGH AND I am definitely filled with excitement! I’ve completely ignored my travel-blogging lately … well, there have been tiny bits peppering my blogs of late, but not much else. Oopsie!

Just so you are aware, I will be at the mercy of internet availability during my travels, so blogging posts may be sporadic—I’ll try my best to adhere to a schedule, but it will completely depend on availability. I do have hotspots for my computer whilst traveling in Ireland and the UK, but I’ll need to figure out how to use them again (it’s been waaaay too long—hope I can remember passwords …) and I’m sure I’ll have to “feed” them before they can be used.

In the past—beginning with our maiden voyage in 2007 (or was it 2008??), I’ve traveled with my daughter for two and a half months; I’ve traveled with her and friends for a week, then just with the friends (stationed over in Germany) for another week … then on my own; I’ve traveled alone for 3-6 weeks; taken trains and buses; rented a car. Each time has been fun; each time has been a learning experience.

This time around, I’ll be traveling with my daughter’s mother-in-law. Sandy and I have hit it off well since our childrens’ nuptial tying of the knot—but we have never spent more than a couple days together, so this will be a delightful experience in patience, understanding and sharing close quarters (the car, dorm-room style sleeping arrangements with 4-8 other roommates—complete strangers—that sometimes turn into lifelong friends, short and long tours cooped up in a van together …et cetera). It’s a matter of give and take for both of us. I think we are adult enough for this trip to be wonderful for both of us. Everyone has their own personal quirks that must be taken into consideration. If you are not able to be flexible, traveling with friends may not be for you.

We will be visiting my new (and old) internet friends that live in Wales, London (and surrounding areas), and Yorkshire area. I love being able to meet my internet connections—at least one face-to-face enriches the relationship. I will be showing Sandy around places I’ve seen (and have fallen in love with) and we’ll experience other places together for the first time. And we will do tons of walking. Literally tons … my habit of “park-it-and-walk” still applies for as long as I am able to walk. We’ll stay at hostels as often as we can—I’m sure there will be a few B&Bs and hotels when hostels are booked. We’ll do mini-tours around the “big cities” via the Hop-On/Hop-Off buses, more mini-tours with some of the tour companies that take jaunts out into the nearby country-side … and perhaps take the car out to look at the lovely countryside, ruins and other little towns. As I’ve just mentioned, I prefer the “drive to a location and park it till we move on” philosophy—walking is such a wonderful way to observe and soak in the beauty of the cities and towns. But sometimes, to see special spots and places far afield, cars are required. (Usually, I find cars are way too fast for sightseeing, but with a car, I can pull over or turn around if I see something that interests me—unlike various forms of public transport!) We will have our week-long tour (with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group, a annual tour organised  by Marc Gunn) up on Isle of Skye in Scotland about a month into our journey. Then we’re back to poking around and working our way back to Dublin for our journey home. There will be two ferry rides—I love these. Allows for a re-boot.

There will be at least one ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) for us to attend in Dublin at the Jameson Distillery (insert a very happy, smiley face). The date has yet to be set … I really need to get on that soon. Yes, there is more planning to do before we set sail. All in all, I’m looking forward to a laid-back, delightful tour of Ireland and the UK.

So, until next week (after my first book signing of the year—and just before the next one), I wish you all a beautiful, blessed Friday and weekend. Toodles!