This & That & Not So Much

Random thoughts my minds-eye has taken note of during this trip that remind me I’m not at home.

In no particular order:

~ Where are all the homeless people? We saw maybe one street person in Barcelona, a handful in London and Wales and of the six places we have visited so far in Ireland it wasn’t until we got to Galway that we have seen a total of three men sitting on the sidewalk with a blanket and money cup. The blankets are so clean and comfy looking they give the appearance it could be more of a day job.

~ Smoking is still a thing. Real cigarettes not too many vaping. Outside restaurant patio’s have ashtrays, people walk down the street happily puffing. The occasional trash bin has a place on the side of it to butt your cigarette out before throwing the stub away.

~ Trash bins are few and far between. I’ve taken to watching out for them because ever since Covid struck I  have to blow my nose a lot. It has been almost three weeks since I tested negative but still can’t shake the congestion. The lack of trash bins has not impacted the cleanliness of the streets. They are impressively clean. 

~ Healthy restaurant food options are hard to find. There were a couple of good restaurants in Killarney, the Mad Monk for one (thanks Charles for the recommendation) and Galway also has an array of restaurant choices. But the ruling menu in most restaurants we’ve checked out,  consists of fried foods that come with mushy peas, lamb, beef and sausage. Once in awhile a salad option appears usually sprinkled with bacon. I am happy when we come across an Indian restaurant. Whether in a Airbnb or a hotel we make a point of buying some fruit and muesli to have a healthy breakfast. It hasn’t been easy in every place to find a good selection of fruit. And in Doolin, where we stayed a week, we had to take a half hour bus ride to find a grocery store, that was more of a convenience store. Days old fruit and vegetables. 

~  Locals are open and friendly. As much as we have all wanted to resume travel they have wanted to welcome us back. Even when faced with hoards of people, service has for the most part come with a smile. It is impressive how busy everywhere is. We so loved the quietness walking the Cliffs of Moher. We learned that the entry where the tour buses go and the visitors office is was jammed with people who had to pay an entrance fee. We were lucky and stayed at the other end of the cliffs, few people, no fees. 

~ Hotel amenities are not what we’re used to. Not sure if it is as usual for Europe and the UK or if it is a cutting back while trying to recover revenues after being closed down for so long. With one exception, the Mercure Hotel in Wales, not one accommodation provided what I think of as basics like kleenex or body lotion, or hair conditioner. Not to sound like a princess but they all advertise toiletries and we’re not booking hostels, we are paying premium. Our latest hotel in the Latin Quarters of Galway is big enough for a bed. But the location is amazing.

~ Traveling with bags that can’t hold anything extra is helping to curb my consumerism. I love to wander the shops and appreciate the local handicrafts. The cable knit sweaters are ever so tempting. But really, how often would I wear one in San Diego, and I’m allergic to wool. But still tempting.

Next post I’ll be talking about how I accidentally met a young man who chances are good shares some famous blood ancestry with me.

Photos – Two old time buildings serving new time food. Snug Townhouse in the Latin Quarters, Galway where the bed takes up the whole room and the scene out the window is the busy pub that rocks until 2 in the morning. A photo sample of clean busy street 🙂

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Churches, Castles, Donkeys and Beer

 

You can’t visit Ireland without bumping into a church. These impressive buildings dominate the skyline in cities and small towns and beg to be visited. 

You can’t enter a city or town that doesn’t have its very own castle. Ross Castle, 15th century in Killarney. Doonagore Castle 16th century, in Doolin. We see this one from our loft apartment window and is privately owned by an Irish American. Some castles are now hotels like Killane Castle in Wexford and Waterford Castle. There are tens of thousands of castles spread across Ireland. Most of them in ruin and yet their medieval, majestic charm continues to draw us travelers to them.

You can’t go out to the countryside without being compelled to go to a grocery store and stock up with carrots to feed the adorable donkeys. And, if no donkeys in sight, there are plenty of cows giving you a pleading feed-me look. Even in the city there are no lack of animal presence, this time in the form of statues.

You can’t walk more than a block without passing at least one probably three or four pubs to entice you in for a Guinness or in my case a refreshing 0.0 beer or cider.

The connection between these four things is how their contrasts are in harmony with their history, and how they blend together as a part of this beautiful Emerald Island.

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Detours

Some of my best and often surprising experiences have resulted by taking a detour. Waterford, Ireland wasn’t top of the list to visit. Johnny joked I shouldn’t be anywhere near a crystal factory with my history of breaking things. Our travels tend to revolve around nature. Which is why we booked Killarney – Ring of Kerry for a week and Doolin – Cliffs of Moher / Aran Islands for another week. Doolin is also known for music. My childhood was filled with Irish Ballads and I still have fun doing my version of the jig.

We ended up in Waterford because of a bus change. There was no connection at a decent hour from Waterford to Cork our original destination. We try to avoid really short stays preferring a minimum of three nights so we switched plans, booked a last minute Waterford hotel and settled in ready to explore.

The Tower hotel where we stayed looks out over the River Suir, Reginald’s Tower and is at the tip of the Viking Triangle established in 914. I’m the last person to give a history lesson, so I’ll let wikipedia cover that. I do know the area got its Triangle name because of how the water ways (now roads) land locked it into that shape.

I posed for this photo not because of the historical statue but because I loved the flower bed in the shape of a heart. Later that day we booked a walking tour and the man on the horse took on the significance he deserves. Many of you have recommended walking tours and I couldn’t agree more. The knowledge gained from the guides brings the area to life. 

Heart of Roses

Meet Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced Marr with an Irish accent). He is the long dead man from Waterford who captured my attention. Meagher went from leading the Young Irelanders in the Rebellion of 1848 to being sentenced to death for sedition, but instead was shipped off to Tasmania, escaping there, making his way to New York attaining a law degree while working as a journalist before he became a Union brigadier general in the American Civil War leading the Irish Brigaide, then ended up as a territorial governor of Montana for President Andrew Johnson. All this in his short lived life of 44 years. What you won’t find in his wikipedia profile is some of the theories on how he came to fall off the steamboat into the Missouri river and drown. It was our tour guides belief his drowning was caused by the Klu Klux Clan.

Imagine Meagher’s burning passion to take up not one but many important causes. Nothing short of awe inspiring. If only time travel existed and I could ask him my burning questions. Not about what he did but the why’s. What was the spark that ignited him? Two quotes contributed to him, give us only a faint glimpse.

“I have done what I felt to be my duty.” and “Great interests demand great safeguards.”
Thomas Francis Meagher

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9/11 and Waterford Crystal

Today, we are remembering 9/11, the heroes, the victims, the surreal dark cloud that engulfed the world. It didn’t matter where we lived, who we had sex with, what box we checked at the voting booth, we all came together for a brief moment in tragedy, changed forever by the horrific terrorist act. 

Last week on our travels we toured the Waterford Crystal factory. I was blown away, (pun intended). My appreciation for what goes into creating the glass pieces grew exponentially. Five years of apprenticeship, another two years to become a master craftsman, another two years at art school if you want to tackle designs. 

The glass is heated to 2500˚F. I do have to mention there is only one woman studying to be a master craftsman. The tour guide said he gets asked that question a lot .

On the tour we saw a large engraved glass image of Fr Michael Judge, New York City Fire Department’s Chaplain, being carried out of the rubble of the World Trade Centre. We learned the piece was a passion project that took over 200 hours to complete.

After leaving the factory we wandered around town and into a small museum tucked back on the Viking Triangle. In a side room a man was bent over a small machine, making fine cuts onto a glass bowl. He didn’t look up. I noticed a smaller version of the 9/11 tribute on a shelf beside him and asked if he was the artist. He was indeed. His name is Sean Egan For the next half hour he entertained us with his Story. It encapsulates what it means to persevere and not give up doing what you love.

His tribute to 9 / 11 may have remained private except for a NYC fireman who came to Waterford on holiday. He worked in the same department as the men in the 9/11 photo Sean Egan used for his design. The next thing you know, Sean is being commissioned by the Fire Department to do a larger sculpture and was invited to New York to present it to the Fire Department. His work of art is now displayed in the 9/11 Ground Zero Museum. He donated this masterpiece, not wanting to profit from a disaster. 

There is so much to write about Sean, but I’ve added a link on his name instead and a link on his story if you want to learn more. But better yet it is worth a trip to Waterford to meet this modest man in person. He loves what he does and expresses it seamlessly with his art. I could have sat down and talked with him for hours. Especially after I learned he was traveling to Toronto next week to visit his son. So we talked about my city for a bit. After awhile, I could see he wanted to get back to work and probably tiring of my 100 questions 😜 so we moved on.

Sean Egan

Sean Egan is one of the people I mentioned in my previous post who has enriched our travel experience. He’s the living one. The historical man that captured my interest and I want to write about, had a short life that took him from Ireland to Australia to The United States. His accomplishments during major times of unrest were huge and I had to travel to Waterford to learn about him.

It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to learn so many new things. Classes at school were wasted on me. Travel is my school, always has been. “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin

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Gift Of The Gab

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

After too short a visit with friends in Wales we headed by train to catch the Ferry from Fishguard, Wales to Rosslare, Ireland. Trains, buses and ferry transportation has been working well for us. 

Overnighting in Fishguard was a nice find. We walked some of the Pembrokshire Coastal Path. The path dipped down into the village where we stopped (of course) for a fortifying pint at The Royal Oak Pub. This pub was the location in 1797 where the French and British signed a peace treaty. Listening to the present day patron’s chatter I tried to imagine the infinite amount of conversations and style of clothing this place has experienced in the last 225 years.

Speaking of pubs, as a side-note, next week I will hit 100 days without alcohol. I did wonder about sticking to the 100 day plan with so many historic pubs to visit, but turns out not a big deal. Every place offers 0.0 alcohol beers, including Guinness and ciders. Capturing the experience without the buzz or hangover 🍹😉

The highlight traveling to Ireland on the Stenaline ferry was meeting Katie O’Farrell. She took the table next to ours and for the next 3 1/2 hours mesmerized me with her stories, leaving an indelible impression that this woman is someone I expect to be reading more about in the future.

The attraction wasn’t just the Irish lilt in her voice and the way her eyes sparkled when she talked about her career as a Jump Jockey. It was how this 32 year old woman in a traditional man’s sport, framed her high and low career points with a positive spin. And then, after giving it all she could, knew it was time to retire and throw herself into a new passion. Katie suffered several concussions that showed her there isn’t enough help for injured athletes. She was heading home to Ireland to complete a masters degree in Sports Psychology.

Next post I’ll be writing about how I learned there is a lot more of interest in Waterford than the production of fine crystal. And surprise, I also met two very interesting people. Well, technically only one was a real life person as the other is long dead so our meeting was more of an introduction into his life.

I keep coming back to, it is the people we meet and/or learn about that enrich our travel experiences. We’ve been lucky on this trip and met many with the Gift of the Gab, especially here in Ireland 🍀

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Writing & Travel

When writing my novel Tethered Braids (still in revisions) I worked with a brilliant writing coach, Kemlo. She kept me on track and when I had doubts I could ever finish, she was there telling me I could and should. As the scenes piled up and the story of Josefina, the main character, unfolded, Kemlo drilled into me the importance of making a connection with what happened to Josefina to how it affected her internally. Over and over again I heard Kemlo say, “What was she thinking? How did it make her feel?” Bring the senses to life.

As Johnny and I continue our travels on land I’m aware of how applicable Kemlo’s writing advice is to our days events.

I could tell you about the scary bus ride to the botanical garden in Ponta Delgada. Experiencing 40° C / 104° F heat in Cadiz. A splendid morning at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. An outstanding dinner at Los Caracoles, family owned since 1835. A visit to Winston Churchill’s family home, where Johnny let everyone and I mean Everyone, know he is Winston’s direct descendant. The friendly fox that came every evening to our friends home in Kent to eat and take food back to her kits. Standing in Charles Darwin’s study where he  wrote, then published in 1859 The Origin of Species. Walking up the 253 steps of the Great Pagoda in Kew Gardens and only stopping to catch my breath twice. Reconnecting and sharing laughs and memories with long time friends in Spain and England.

But what am I thinking/ feeling?  I can say this–sometimes, I wish there was a magic wand to slow time down. Time to fully absorb the brief period of time before moving onto the next encounter. We’ve taken oodles of photos of places and people but the real emotional impact comes from the snapshots in my mind playing out the special moments on a continuous loop. Glimpsing a glint of sunlight on the stain glass church windows, the smile on the mother fox’s face (yes foxes smile) when she sees the food, how my food tastes better while sharing a meal with friends, smelling the garden flowers at the homes of historical giants, the hustle & bustle of the underground, hearing music in the streets. All the senses coming alive, making me feel like I’m dancing on sunshine.

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APPRECIATION XO

Gladys, who I loved dearly, went on several holidays with me while I was part of her son’s life. A fond memory of her that keeps popping up on this trip is the image of her lying back in a Mexican hammock arms extended out, face lifted to the sun and in her sweet British accent shouting out, “This is really living”   

Unlike Gladys, I did not have hardships that included a bomb shelter in my backyard and food rations but I have lived enough experiences to solidify a strong appreciation when afforded life’s pleasures.

This trip is providing an abundance of moments to revel in. The choice to cruise across the Atlantic versus flying has proved to be a good one. I owe a big thank you to my friend Angie who, as I was bemoaning the cost of a one way business class airline ticket to her (my frugal nature refuses to pay $2200. per person, just to be comfortable for 12 hours) made the suggestion about booking a cruise instead. For pretty much the same price we have enjoyed thirteen days of comfort, and spoiling. No jet lag, no rushing, no crowds and best of all the journey is part of the vacation rather than a means of getting from point A to B. 

Apart from the sea days we have enjoyed three land days, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel and Funchal, Madeira and Cadiz, Spain. Funchal was the definite highlight. I’ll write more about why later. 

Tomorrow, we say a fond good-bye to the Cunard Queen Elizabeth to spend a few days in Barcelona before flying to London. In both of these places we will be visiting treasured friends. Friendships made and solidified while we were all ex-pats living in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. 

What can I say?  “This is really living.” 

Seize the Moments

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Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel

First, thank you everyone for signing up to follow our travel stories. I will try not to be boring. Still on a bit of a learning curve with the posts and not yet agile at responding to your wonderful comments. Sporadically grabbing internet time as we soak up the land sights. More later.

Johnny making friends wherever he goes.

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Moving With The Currents

Horizons and Beyond

Today is our sixth full day at sea. We by-passed our first port of call, Bermuda, because of the island’s discomfort with the number of Covid cases on ship. Currently we are with mandatory face masks when not on an outside deck. So far we have continued to dodge the illness, but I don’t want to say that too loud and jinx our good luck.

Tomorrow when we dock in Ponta Delgada on the Island of Sao Miguel, Azores, I’ll have internet and be able to post this. I don’t know whether it is Cunard’s propensity for sticking to old world charm, or being out in the middle of the Atlantic, but internet has not been accessible. Truth, I am missing it. Living in the moment is nice but checking in occasionally to see how people in my world are doing would be nice too. This need to know is compounded with some dear friends facing medical challenges and dropping in to see how they are and giving some words of support would make me feel more at ease.

Friends / Family communication aside, what a luxury to have the day with nothing to do but self-indulge. Room service breakfast on our balcony while being lolled by the sound of the sea. A morning of exercise, deck laps, weights and yoga, burning sufficient calories to squelch any hesitation with scarfing down the sensational food. No demands on time, taking guilt free naps, reading and writing. Entertainment galore. Do lots or do nothing…

This & That & Not So Much

Random thoughts my minds-eye has taken note of during this trip that remind me I’m not at home. In no particular order: ~ Where are all the homeless people? We saw maybe one street person in Barcelona, a handful in London and Wales and of the six places we have visited so far in Ireland … Continue reading

Churches, Castles, Donkeys and Beer

  You can’t visit Ireland without bumping into a church. These impressive buildings dominate the skyline in cities and small towns and beg to be visited.  You can’t enter a city or town that doesn’t have its very own castle. Ross Castle, 15th century in Killarney. Doonagore Castle 16th century, in Doolin. We see this … Continue reading

Detours

Some of my best and often surprising experiences have resulted by taking a detour. Waterford, Ireland wasn’t top of the list to visit. Johnny joked I shouldn’t be anywhere near a crystal factory with my history of breaking things. Our travels tend to revolve around nature. Which is why we booked Killarney – Ring of … Continue reading

9/11 and Waterford Crystal

Today, we are remembering 9/11, the heroes, the victims, the surreal dark cloud that engulfed the world. It didn’t matter where we lived, who we had sex with, what box we checked at the voting booth, we all came together for a brief moment in tragedy, changed forever by the horrific terrorist act.  Last week … Continue reading

Gift Of The Gab

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss After too short a visit with friends in Wales we headed by train to catch the Ferry from Fishguard, Wales to Rosslare, Ireland. Trains, buses and ferry transportation has been working … Continue reading

Writing & Travel

When writing my novel Tethered Braids (still in revisions) I worked with a brilliant writing coach, Kemlo. She kept me on track and when I had doubts I could ever finish, she was there telling me I could and should. As the scenes piled up and the story of Josefina, the main character, unfolded, Kemlo drilled … Continue reading

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Then & Now

Arthur Frommer’s Europe on Five Dollars a Day was the first travel guidebook I purchased. Fresh out of high school, a friend and I set off to spend the summer hitchhiking around Europe.  Four hundred dollars in travelers checks and a new passport were stashed in a secret compartment that I had sown into my corduroy shoulder satchel.  No credit card, no cell phone, no safety net.  My duffel bag, wearing a Canadian flag, was stuffed with a sweater, five tops, two shorts, two mini skirts, bellbottom jeans and a long evening dress for the just-in-case special occasion.

Europe was teaming with like-minded travelers that year.  When tired of a city, we’d stand on a street corner holding a sign, ‘ Two Passengers Will Share Gas’.  We fearlessly, or would that be, shamelessly, donned our mini-skirts when looking for a ride. Youth can have a wonderful  smugness that nothing bad could ever happen. It’s all part of the adventure.  Lucky for us, nothing bad did happen. There were some minor scares that once back home got embellished. We  puffed ourselves up to be seasoned travelers,  capable of handling any bump in the travel road.

Fifty years later a little wiser and with a few more dollars, a credit card, a smart phone tucked into a thief proof travel purse, Johnny and I are headed out for a three month trip. One thing that hasn’t changed is still traveling with carry on luggage only. And, the stories I’ll be telling may be less exaggerated than in my youth but a few embellishments may creep in here and there.



APPRECIATION XO

Gladys, who I loved dearly, went on several holidays with me while I was part of her son’s life. A fond memory of her that keeps popping up on this trip is the image of her lying back in a Mexican hammock arms extended out, face lifted to the sun and in her sweet British … Continue reading

Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel

First, thank you everyone for signing up to follow our travel stories. I will try not to be boring. Still on a bit of a learning curve with the posts and not yet agile at responding to your wonderful comments. Sporadically grabbing internet time as we soak up the land sights. More later. Johnny making … Continue reading

Moving With The Currents

Today is our sixth full day at sea. We by-passed our first port of call, Bermuda, because of the island’s discomfort with the number of Covid cases on ship. Currently we are with mandatory face masks when not on an outside deck. So far we have continued to dodge the illness, but I don’t want … Continue reading

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