I’ve Been Pondering … Deeply | Part One

OH, YOU KNOW ME … WHEN I START TO THINK—well, that can be dangerous at times. Have you ever thought about something for a long time, but feared voicing the thoughts? I mean, saying them out loud? It’s different to keep the thoughts in your head … or even write them on “paper”. Well, at least for me … for some reason, something happens when I voice thoughts. It changes the purpose. The circumstances.

I put a voice behind a thought a short time ago … and now I cannot get it out of my head. I love to travel. You already know that. I write about it all the time. I love Europe, Ireland, Scotland and … well, simply the idea of being over there, planning for the next adventure … then experiencing it. I love it enough that I’ve seriously contemplated purchasing a someplace to lay my head when I am able to visit. I put a voice to that several years ago. I actually started looking … seriously looking. Every time I was over there, I looked with the intent of finding something. I’ve talked to realtors, looked at ads, thought about consolidating into two small abodes so I could bounce back and forth whenever I could make it happen. Over the last year, I realized there were a few huge obstacles: 1) the cost of purchasing something—even renting a flat … or a room—would be very steep. 2) as long as I had critters, it wasn’t going to happen. My forever critters. I cannot justify giving them up just so I can travel for extended periods—nor put them into quarantine (“jail”) for months on end just so I can take them with me. And there’s no way I’m going to leave them behind to live abroad. All of that would be too selfish. Lest I forget my loving pet sitters—I cannot impose on them for repeated long stretches of time … so I figured, I could wait till the pets passed over the Rainbow Bridge. 3) then another realization hit me … as I wait, my health seems to be deteriorating to the point that these transcontinental flights are taking a heavier toll on me with each trip … what shape will I be in once I am pet-free?

I’m already contemplating moving up to business class so I can more comfortably make this next trip. That’s a heap of money spent just to get across the Pond. That in itself is a huge negative for me. I like to make the air fare and room as inexpensively as possible so I can use my funds to explore. So, another thought started pinging around in my head—one I kept stuffing, because I didn’t want to consider it. Logic and common sense kept dredging it back up. The thought I recently voiced was to make this 2016 trip my last trip abroad. Once voiced, the idea grew. Stop flying across the pond and instead, put my time and effort into visiting places within the confines of this continent. I didn’t like the sound of that at all. “Confines…” was the key word. But I cannot make it go away.

I love traveling so much—and the draw of Ireland and Scotland is strong. I just don’t know. It’s hard to imagine not traveling. In a way, I’m in mourning … it saddens me thinking that 2016 will be my last foray traveling abroad—traipsing amongst the trees and trudging up hills with hidden secrets … and experiencing the ancient ruins of our past. The States—and that which lies north and south of me—may be old, but Europe and the British Isles are ancient. I have fallen in love with ancient. I adore ancient. It pulls my mind away from the present, planting me deep in to the past of oh, so long ago. My imagination seems more alive as I wander over there. To think that I won’t be visiting any of these lovely places anymore leaves a huge hole in my heart.

What am I to do with this quandary?? My heart is aching over it. I cannot see a resolution in the near future, yet … I really must decide.

Celtic Invasion Vacation: Wales-Part Two

AS MY TRIP CONTINUES TO unfold on these pages, I am having fun reminiscing and looking through all of the photos I managed to accumulate. Rather daunting, actually. You are only seeing a small fraction of the shots I took. At some point, I will be putting most of them (at least the ones I deem ‘sharable’) onto my Flickr page for you to peruse. Until then, you must be satisfied with the smattering I include in the blogs (fewer, this time—I’m afraid the last one was way too photo-heavy).

Snowdonia—and Wales in general pull at my heart-strings, for sure. There’s something quieting about the natural beauty of this area. I’m sure my blood pressure was down quite a bit. It’s the ‘woody-ness’ of the region, I think. Have you ever heard of Forest Bathing (also known as Shinrin-yoku)? Sounds a bit weird—I know, but really, there are scientific facts behind it. Here’s a link if you want to check it out.

So, now—onward with my adventure…

Day Five (honestly, the days were starting to blur, so

Confusion

Confused? Which way did we go?

chronological order may not be precise) was mostly spent wandering around the town of Caernarfon, to see the beautiful castle and town, but we also managed to get out into the country to wander around the rolling hills and bluffs of Ysgol Poithy Felin.

Beautiful Vista

Hills and dales, where the sea meets land…

Three brave (or perhaps fool- hardy?) souls managed to somehow negotiate the cliffs to poke around in the rocky beach below. I was content to stay above, drinking in the beauty of the area. It was amazing. Our evening was the highpoint of the day—first, a BBQ’d dinner, then a concert by Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan. They’d planned on

Jonny and Vicki

The melodic duo, Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan sang and played for us

leaving around 8pm, but stayed well beyond that, playing the most magnificent music (I purchased a few of their CDs—insert huge grin) until around ten or so. After bidding them safe travels, we all went to bed very happy, indeed.

Day Six involved lots of driving. We met up with Jonny and Vicki in Llanberis for a boat ride out to an island to try to spy some puffin…I didn’t see any. But it was

Boat Ride to Puffin Refuge

A puffin refuge, but not a puffin to be found

a nice ride. Back at the docks, we said goodbye to our musical friends and continued our adventure, after wandering the town for a bit. From there, we went back into Holyhead, to Winefried’s Well (loved the architecture), and…well, like I said, it’s all a bit of a blur. We did get back to the cottage relatively early, figuring we’d walk to the local pub for dinner. Plans changed and we ended up going into Holyhead for dinner at a lovely pubby-restaurant, The Old Boathouse at Red Wharf Bay (I think). Delicious food.

Day Seven was pretty much spent driving to our final destination (with a tiny bit of sightseeing on the way)

River In Town

This river flows through town, with businesses on both sides. Don’t remember the town name —sorry.

—a beautiful, old hotel in Mold (in Flintshire Wales), where we spent our last night as a group. We took in the sights as we drove, but it was mostly pre-departure day preparation day for the majority of the Invaders. We had one final ‘house concert’ in one of the Invaders rooms, then we retired for the night.  Then next morning—very early, we all drove into Manchester. Marc dropped a few at the airport so they could catch their flights and the remainder of us were deposited at the

Manchester

Last look around Manchester before heading back on the train to Bewely Hotel

Bewley Airport Hotel. I would continue on my trip the next morning, Nicholas took the train down to Cardiff (spent the night and back the next day) so he could go to the Dr. Who Experience, and Jan and Jim would head out for home the next day. We had breakfast together and said our goodbyes. It was lovely, but I was exhausted and looking forward to getting on to my next stop so I could recover from all the fun I had in the last seven days. I needed a vacation from my vacation…so I could continue my vacation.

If there is one thing I’ve learned—especially on this trip, going into any vacation, you must know your limits. Thankfully, I do know mine, but still, I have a tendency to stretch those limits on occasion—sometimes finding that little extra I need, but other times, finding myself completely spent at the end of the day. I have decided, no matter which way things go, I choose to see every experience I have as a rich one, filled with lessons for me to learn. I have found that I never regret the things I’ve done, though, perhaps I shake my head at some of my choices. And laugh.

Next year, Marc’s plan is to go back to Ireland to explore the northwest corner and the Giant Causeway, and possibly a trip to Isle of Man. If it’s at all financially feasible, I’m going to attempt to make the trip (I usually travel every other year, but there have been exceptions made in the past). Marc has already opened up the reservation doors and space is limited. If you are interested, make sure you check it out. Remember, this is not your typical “tour”. It’s a vacation for like-minded people who want to enjoy a bit of history, beautiful scenery and Celtic music.

Until next week (sorry for the delay in getting this posted—internet problems), may visions of vacations-to-come dance in your head, beckoning you to break out of your every-day life, to explore the world around you, whether just outside of your back yard or across the border somewhere.

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.

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.

Ireland: The Countdown Begins…

I would not call myself a “seasoned traveler”.   Though I have traveled a fair amount in my life, I have not been “out there” every year.  Each time I travel, I bring the excitement of new adventures: things to see, things to do and different ways in which to do them!  This trip will be no different.  I am always finding different ways to complicate (and make interesting) my trips.

I have traveled with my college-age daughter (2008); with her again (only for a week–college beckoned her to return after Spring Break) in 2011 with the first two weeks being chauffeured around by some delightful friends who acted as tour guide (this is definitely the way to go!) — then I was on my own for the remainder of the trip. I must say, traveling with a friend or two seems to be the way I prefer.  I can — and do — enjoy being solitary, but this is the type of experience that begs sharing.  My  final weeks of solo travel was fun, but I now know it would have been even more enjoyable if I had someone with me.  I am going to have to con a few friends into saving up their pennies and joining me next time!

That said, this time — for the first time — I will do an entire trip with a tour group.  The jury is still out on this, since I have become accustomed to making my on time-table…coming and going as I please.  Eating from grocery stores & farmer’s markets — very few restaurant visits.  Now, I will be tied to a group, a plan of action and a schedule.  Not sure how flexible they will be for someone that can get seriously hung up on taking the “right” shot(s).

The next “first” is, due to a problem with my little “point and shoot” pocket camera, I will be bringing a new one.  It’s bigger, far from being “pocketable”, but not so heavy and bulky as a full-blown dslr — a friend called it a “tween” dslr.  Very appropriately named.  It’s a Fuji FinePix with auto and manual settings, built in zoom lens (24-500mm) ^,^(no lugging & switching out extra lenses–yes!!!), 14megapixels.  I’m still playing with it to get comfortable with how it works.  My decision to bring ONLY this camera may be a big mistake, but it’s only ten days worth of photo-ops in areas I have mostly seen before.  Opportunities to take — and compare (once home) — some old and new shots.  It looks like a good camera.  And a good option for traveling lighter.

I’ve traveled by car (full-time driver, so no photo ops unless I talked my daughter into taking them on the fly), by train, ferry and bus.  Now, I’ll be a passenger in a small (two vehicle) caravan as we travel across the countryside.  So, I will be able to take shots (hopefully I can get the front or openable-window seat–and be in the FIRST car) as we travel down the road.  This will be nice.  I think.

All in all, I am happy with my choice to travel with this small (ten of us in all) group of like-minded (music & Celtic-loving) adventuresome travelers.

The next “first” is staying in a single B&B (part of the package) for the whole trip.  I’ve stayed in mostly in hostels, some hotels and a couple of nights in B&B’s — to keep costs down, and this allows me to spend more money on what really counts:  having FUN!  All of our excursions will be day trips, I believe (though, there was talk of staying overnight on the Aran Islands).

And the final “first” is to begin and stick with a year-long photo journal, that happens to begin the day I arrive in Ireland.  Taking photos will NOT be the issue.  It will be getting them posted to the journal and finding a newspaper daily to add as the title (this is part of a project being done worldwide).  I am excited to start this and am determined to take it to completion.  I have only done a very simple, month-long photo j0urnal before and missed a number of days.  I know this is quite an undertaking, but it will be a wonderful way to mark a year in my life.

Now, back to packing.  Yes, there’s always that.  Must make sure everything is there!  Passport, Euros, international drivers license (just in case someone needs relief), clothes, camera & computer paraphernalia …the list goes on.

So, until the next post,

Slainté!

djsmith

And I’m off again!

I cannot believe it has been over a year since I posted in this blog!  My apologies!

So much has happened in the last year, but in summary, once I returned from my trip to Europe, my daughter announced she’d found the man of her dreams — after a whirlwind “courtship” period, and some crazy, last-minute planning for the wedding, the in-love couple tied the knot in front of friends and family in the fall.

I didn’t have much time to recover, as the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) began on 1 November.  This month-long writing frenzy netted me an almost-complete first-draft spin-off  for my already-in-progress novel.

November’s Thanksgiving and December’s Christmas, January’s New Year’s Eve — they all flew by without me taking much notice.  Where was time flying, anyway?  This getting old(er) is a challenge, but such a wonderful experience.  I love the adage that, like wine, women only improve with age!  Oh, yes!

So, in this new year, I get an email from a friend about a tour in Ireland.  Again, you say?  Well, if I had my way, I would either have a second residence there or have the funds to afford copious travel back and forth.  Ireland is the most beautiful country.  As is Scotland.  And England…and Germany…where do I stop?  I love to travel and meet people from different cultures, take in the extraordinary beauty of their homeland — the different gardens, buildings that are so ancient that stories dance in my head when I am around them — it is all so wonderful.

Of course, I’ll go!  A tour.  Something I said I’d never do…like being in a cattle car, shuffling from one “oooh, lookie” spot to another.  This one promises to be different.   There will only be ten of us.  Our musical guide (Marc Gunn, a musician) and his wife, plus eight others.  The tour will be focused on the musical side of the people.  We will tour Galway and westward by day and sing and laugh and drink pints by night.  So, this blog will get some good posts coming up soon.

I’ve spent little time on my manuscript — I still need to finish that first draft!  There has been no time (my fault) and this makes me sad….

Instead, I have procrastinated — found other pleasures and pursuits to follow.  I’ve been spending time behind my lens, working in the yard, going to classes to improve my artistic skills…

But mostly, my focus has been getting ready for this delightful trip and getting ready to be a mama to about 12 young chickens.  I’ve raised chickens before, but failing health required finding new homes for them.  I was called the Egg Lady at church.  There was always someone that needed some eggs.  Which was a good thing, because I had quite a few very productive hens, laying daily.

Now that my health has improved (finally), I have decided to start up again…but not until I get back from my trip.   I must say, I have some terrific neighbors, because, they help me out when I’m gallivanting off to other continents.  They love on my dog and cat while I’m gone.  Without them, my traveling days would be naught.  And I would be very sad, indeed.

So, as I said, heading to Ireland in June & blogging the trip (I still need to figure out how to post photos–my brain can be so lame sometimes!).  Working on my manuscript.  Starting a new project called 365: a photo journal on 1June — which you will be able to find on my Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/creationsbydjamesonsmith/ (hope this is a link — if not, copy and paste to your address bar).  I may post a few of the photos on this blog. And beginning to put together new pr material for my local schools to promote my storytelling.

I am thinking 2012 is going to be one very busy year!

Until next time,

Slainte!

Stranraer -> Belfast -> Dublin…and more

20 April

9:35 and we are off, heading to Belfast.  This is a much smaller ferry than Jameson and I were on in ’08.  The StenaPlus (you pay extra for this) is much smaller, not as grand a view as on the big ship.  Shucks. Oh, well.  I might go downstairs and see if that one is any better (thought the upper deck would provide a better view, but wenches are in the way.  Perhaps I’ll go out on deck first.  Jacket will be needed — I see people out there and one lady’s hair is blowing pretty good.  We’ll see — I have three hours to check things out.

Didn’t sleep that well last night — mattress was a wee bit lumpy (an inner spring mattress), but mostly because I didn’t want to oversleep & miss my taxi, so I kept waking up — lol.  Coveting horizontal surfaces (none anywhere to be seen, except the floor & I don’t think that would be acceptable)…

Just saw what I guess is the Brit’s version of Regis & Kathy (or whoever his current “co-anchor” is…) — morning talk show that hosts celebrities, etc.  They had some interesting people on this morning:  young man named Milos that plays an amazing guitar — I’ll be looking for his music when I get home; the star of a new movie, Beastly (updated & probably PG or R rated version of Beauty & the Beast).  I’ll have to do a little research, but I think I may go see this one.  The actor, after finishing the move, had a whole new view of people with deformities (after playing the part — and going out during break, still in his makeup); and a star that is hosting two shows — one a documentary of newly found family members (adoptive children looking for birth parents or family members, families that have been separated for decades, etc) — neat.  They are able to do a more exhaustive search where the individuals have failed.  The other is a game show…ho-hum.

12:55pm
So, I have about 45 minutes before my train boards…not enough time to look around the city and almost too much time to just sit.  But, Belfast is extremely smoggy — reminds me of LA (not a good thing), plus the exhaust in the taxi needs work!  At first I thought it was the “fresh air” I was smelling — but once I got out, wasn’t so bad…no wonder he kept opening his window wider!  LOL!  Not a very chatty fellow, either.

Guess I could take this time to get a bite to eat, but it looks very “fast food”-ish…not terribly appealing.  Ah!  I keep forgetting I have a few bits in my “kitchen” bag ^,^ : nice fresh orange or two, bread & some jam that I nicked from my last accommodation (I paid for it, so guess I didn’t really nick it, did I?)  So, I’ll enjoy some fruit & a wee bit of bread w/jam.

Ah…refreshed!  And now, on my two and a quarter hour train ride.  A cutie across from me (love it when I’ve got a youngster across from me — so far they have been very well behaved.  This little lassie is about three or four.  She and her mum are going to Limerick Junction — off at Dublin station, switching to another station, then on in their travels.

Saying farewell to Belfast — it’s started to clear already!  I can see the haze in the distance.  Sorry, I’m sure there’s beautiful stuff to see, but I just couldn’t handle the smoggy city.  Balmoral is beautiful!  Just passed an old graveyard–I like them for some reason.

Oh, dear.  Lovely young lady just sat across from me…Why is it women feel they must take a bath in perfume.  My eyes are now quite itchy.   I may have to move if she doesn’t get off soon.  Arg.

21 April
6:50pm

Hot and sweaty — you just don’t equate those two word with Ireland, unless you’ve been working hard outside in the summer…and the weather has been a lot like summer!

The weather here has been phenomenal!  I arrived in Dublin yesterday late afternoon, booked a train to as close to Shannon as I could get (Limerick), then took a taxi to the hostel, made my bed & grabbed a locker.  Then I tried to get on line to check emails, FB, and to check the bus schedule to Shannon from Limerick (since it looks like the way I’ll end up going…that or a taxi) — succeeded for about five minutes — the system kept cutting out (too many trying to get on at once), so I gave up.  I concentrated my efforts figuring out where my day trips would take me.  One of the girls at the reception desk gave me a ton of fliers to look through…back to my room. After weighing the cost, timing (up, out & down to the pick up point–furthest point away, before buses started–by 6:30 for one!!!), I decided on one, went down to book & was told tI just needed o just show up…but after more discussing pros and cons of multi-day tours (not my favorite idea at the time), I decided to go for one that provided two tours AND an overnight accommodation at a hostel for 75 euro.  Their normal rate is 50/tour, so I thought I had a pretty good deal — what closed the deal was the fact that they would come pick me up at the hostel at 6:30–I could do that!  I will need to get a taxi back to the hostel on Friday night, because it doesn’t get back till at least 9pm.  But I’m happy with the arrangements.  We ended calling the tour company quite a few times to ask various questions…(I’d walk away, think of a question & come back…I don’t know how many times I visited the reception staff, but I’m sure they were sighing as they saw me coming as the day ended…LOL!  They were probably glad that I would be gone two whole days!)

So, today I was picked up, taken to Galway by the Dublin Tour Co, along with about 36 other people (picked up at various spots in the city).  Two tours were running: Connemara & Cliffs of Moher.  I had decided to do Cliffs of Moher, but they needed to shift people & I volunteered to do the Connemara tour instead.  It was very nice — I took notes on things that interested me & shot a zillion pictures…until my battery died.  I then resorted to the iPhone camera until it was down below 20%…by then, we were pretty much finished with the official part of the tour & coming into Galway.

I find it interesting that the tours I’ve been on, when I sit up front, the tour guide seems to talk to me rather than the whole tour group — lol.  Kinda weird, but flattering?  But the guide today was great — full of historical facts, some blarney and lots of laughs. (Did you know the blue/pink marks on the sheep were to indicate boy/girl? ^,~ )

The hostel I’m staying at in Galway did not have any adapters, so I had to go out and buy an adapter (only a week left — LOL!) for my camera’s battery charger…the front desk did not have any adapters for US plugs…only 3.80–not bad.  This is really a quite nice hostel (called Snoozles — how cute) — newer than mine in Dublin, and it has an elevator!  YAY (though, didn’t bring my rolly…but my knees certainly appreciate it–always took it up, and the stairs down!) and there is a bathroom W/shower (interesting–just a shower curtain, drain in floor…) en suite.  Happy camper…which brings me back to hot and sweaty!  Our bus’ air conditioning (you wouldn’t think you’d need it this time of year, right??) was out of whack.  So, the driver’s thermometer gauge read 32.9 degrees Celsius!  That’s 91 degrees F, folks!  The only windows were the drivers window and one ceiling vent in the back.  Once he opened it up, the temp dropped slowly to 27…(80).  Everyone was pouring out at each stop, whether they wanted to take photos or not, just to cool down.  But, it wasn’t too bad up front…I had the breeze from his window keeping me reasonably cooled (still very warm, but tolerable)…hence, hot and sweaty — and wanting to take a shower.  I will, just before going to bed (lol…will have to deal with crazy hair in the morning).

Just have to decide if I want to go out to eat tonight, or just munch on a protein bar or an orange or something…funny thing about just sitting all day.  I am tired from doing nothing much — oh, yeah…and getting up at 5:30 to be ready for my pick up…(forgot about that).  And I’m not really all that hungry, either.  Had a salmon & spinach quiche w/carrots — yummy — for my “lunch” at 2pm, so still very full.

Saturday, 23 April, 5:30pm — my where did the time go??

I was way too tired and had no time to do any posting yesterday.

Yesterday was a blast — leisurely rise, dress & breakfast (included with my room)…went for a walk to kill time, then checked out at 9:30 am, wandered over and sat for nearly an hour, kibitzing with the staff…half of them seem to know me by name — was I that much trouble??  I did, tongue-in-cheek, ask why everyone knew my name & the answer was because I was one of a few that were “overnighters” & they had to keep track of us…lol.  I certainly seemed to get good treatment on my first tour.

Now, this next tour was to cover the Cliffs of Moher, Burrens & some other miscellaneous stops.  Did I tell you that the Galway Tour company allows their drivers to pick and choose their routes & minor stops, plus their spiel that they give along the way?  Right!  And each guide had a great repertoire & route.  The Cliffs were breath-taking–in more ways than one–l o n g walk, folks up to the top.  I opted to NOT go up to the tower, which was a bad choice — puffins were up there!!!  I had plenty of time, too…just no energy. >.<

Our tour guide, Desmond Murphy (I think…his Irish accent was pretty heavy) had to be about 70 — years young!  This guy had a sharp mind & quick wit.  His humor could get kinda corny, but great, nonetheless!  He took the time to stop so we could get close up shots of lambs & other things.  He introduced us to the lamb-cow…”it goes moo-ma-a-a” — when we finally saw them, I had to laugh…alpaca!  Must be quite an oddity there.  Nothing but cows and sheep for miles and miles, and yet, relatively near the Cliffs was a heard of alpaca.   LOL.

We saw the beautiful Kylemore Abbey — unfortunately $$ to go in, so I opted to just have lunch (which was also expensive, but this I needed!) and leisurely walk around a take pictures.  Took some great shots of the Abbey with the lake in front.

It was a very long tour, leaving at 10 am and getting back to the bus depot by 6:25pm–20 minutes for me to make a quick pit stop & inhale an orange & scone I had the forethought to put in my bag ^,^ before getting onto the Dublin-bound bus & a 2 1/4 hour drive back.  I contemplated walking back to the hostel — sooo many people still out and about — but I had no more energy!  I found a taxi & paid the 5 euros (including tip) to get me back to the hostel.

I had a delightful day & when I got to the room at 9:30 pm, there was only one person in bed.  So, I quietly got into pjs, tucked stuff into my locker and no sooner than I was in bed, two giggle-boxes came in, whispering very quietly, then giggling louder than they needed.  I thought they were school girls (maybe 16-18), but I saw them today & they were early to mid 20s!  Just acted like school girls…I guess.

Today, I got up, dressed & had breakfast — free except for the extra scrambled eggs (2 euro) I added to my meal — and started in on my laundry…got it folded, and repacked my bag.

I only had a few things on the agenda today: laundry, walk to the botanical gardens and find out the time for Easter services at the Abbey Presbyterian Church.  That’s all…not much, eh?

Well, as I said, laundry was done, so I headed out to find the gardens…found several other things on the way (a community garden that had an award), the Royal Canal with four locks (took some pictures) and a magnificent cemetery.  I remember that the staff person at the hostel said it was before the cemetery…so, I missed my turn.  I asked at the floral center in the cemetery for directions & she gave some good ones, so I headed out again (after wandering through the grounds).  I finally found Botanical Road (I remembered that from the directions given at the hostel, but had apparently missed it) and aimlessly wandered for a bit, but realized I really had very little energy left — I’d been walking for almost 45 minutes, uphill, at a fairly good pace and figured I’d better give up because I saw nothing up the road that resembled a garden & absolutely no signage.  So, reluctantly, I turned around and headed the long walk back at a much more leisurely pace…dragging my sore feet along…even my calves were in on the action (arg).  I stopped and stretched them a bit, which helped, but as each bus swished by, I thought about stopping and hopping on.  I decided to brave it out and make my way back to the hostel, at the very least.

At the hostel, I almost went in, but decided to persevere and keep trudging along–knowing it was only about four blocks more (and downhill, thankfully!) to Abbey Church.  I made it, checked the times, saw a memorial park for fallen heros across from it (in 2008, the gates always seemed to be closed), so I went in.  Beautiful little park with a reflection pond in the shape of a cross, with mosaic tile design at the bottom.  At the head of the park, there is a beautiful sculpture of several people, with birds flying up and away from them.  Very restful — except when unsupervised pre-teens and teens started to scare the ducks in the ponds & bee-lined for the structure & noisily climbed it…until one very loud voice told them to get off. I think everyone in the memorial park was happy to see them leave.  I took some photos & rested my weary feet for a bit, then headed back up to the hostel, but first stopped into the Centra (mini-mart, very popular) for some yogurt & vittles (meals for the days ahead).  Then, drug myself back to the hostel, found some room (just barely) in the fridge for my stuff, gobbled some of the yogurt down & headed up to my room.

I think I must have fallen asleep, but not for too long.  I’ve been surfing the web & getting my photos into iPhoto so I can pick and choose which to upload later.  iPhoto is not being terribly co-operative right now, for some reason…can’t get in to add information about my photos (not a really big deal, but it has been nice to add the info while it’s fresh in my sieve-like mind…)–I’ll deal with that later!

So, my posting is almost ready to copy and paste into my blog, but first, I’m going to do a wander around the hostel to see if there’s anything interesting happening–and maybe grab a bit more food, before I publish the blog.  ^,^

Well, no desire to eat (I know I’ll regret it later…).  Finding power plugs that I can use to charge things is a challenge at this hostel.  One power plug for 8-bed dorm…drats.  I’ve found a plug in the “wifi” station, but I certainly cannot leave my laptop plugged in and walk away…so…here I sit, charging and typing (which slows down the charging–catch-22! LOL).

So, I’ll get this copied & published, then do some surfing (Facebook & all of my emails…etc)…and wait for the computer to fully charge!

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday & I WILL get up and go to church — only a short four blocks away!  I am really looking forward to it — then I’ll ride the hop-on/off tour bus around Dublin to refresh my memory of where everything is & take more photos!  Jameson and I didn’t spend much time over in the Temple Bar area (some beautiful stuff over there) when we were here in 2008, so I’ll definitely hop off in this area.  The bus is good for 24 hours, so I will definitely get good use out of it!

So, cheers for now!