Sunday, September 27, 2015

Unexpected

It's our last day in Ireland, and if there is one word I would pick to describe our time here it would be unexpected. Every time we turn around it seems like Ireland surprises us. The changing terrain, the amazing food, the variety of activities on offer, the weather - we're never quite sure what's going to greet us as we go around each bend in the road.
Right after our walk we went to Dingle. It was love at first sight! Dingle is a quaint town located on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. 
We drove around the Peninsula, and it was spectacular. 
Our next destination was Inishmore, the northern most of the three Aran Islands. There are rock walls everywhere, and the soil inside them was formed by composting seaweed and sand. It might make these some of the most labour intensive plots of land ever.
You go to Inishmore as a foot passenger, so our tour of the island was done the old-fashioned way.
I have never seen so many sweaters in my life as I did on this small Aran Island. The wool fumes were incredible!
Our next destination was Galway. We visited the famous Cliffs of Moher. After our harrowing time on the Pembrokeshire Coastal path in Wales two years ago we were all very relieved to see that there was a safety barrier at these cliffs.
 
We encountered midges. I don't recommend this as a positive travel experience.
This is Kylemore Abbey, located near Connemara National Park.

Connemara is so different than the area where we did our walk. It reminded us of Montana. Never would I have guessed there would be a place in Ireland that would look like the big skies of that state!
There are a few other pictures I want to share from my journey through Ireland, but they will have to wait until I get home. It's time for us to eat breakfast and head to Dublin, the last stop in our Irish adventure. 
 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Walk

We made it! After 5 days, 94.5 miles, 152 kilometres, 188,949 steps and 908 flights we have safely arrived at the end of our walk along the Kerry Way. We have mostly been lucky with the weather. A couple days before we started County Kerry had torrential rains, six inches in just two days, which would have made for a very miserable walking experience. 
Those heavy rains ended up causing our itinerary to be changed up a bit though. The first day we were supposed to take a boat ride to our starting point, but were told there was too much water to put the boat in. It sounded kind of crazy to us. How could there be too much water for a boat? On day two we were able to do the boat, and once we were on board it made sense. There is a stone bridge the boat has to pass under on the connecting waterway between two lakes. The level of the lakes was up two metres due to the heavy rains, and it meant the boat couldn't get under the bridge. We had to detour through another waterway, and even that was a bit sketchy. The tree branches were very low down and we were all told if we ducked down we'd be fine. 
Our boat driver was quite the character. He said he had just been to a cousin's funeral the day before. We started to say how sorry we were, but before we could finish offering our condolences he went on to say the Irish really know how to have a good time at a funeral. Apparently his comment was so we would know he was hungover. In spite of suffering from overindulgence at the previous day's funeral he managed to answer all of our questions, turned the boat around so we could go back and see the Sika deer Kath spotted, and he quietly sang to himself as he motored along. 
We've walked on country lanes with horse drawn carts trotting down them.
We've stopped for lunch in places that are breathtakingly beautiful.
We've climbed over more gates than I could count.
We've climbed mountains and gone through mountain passes.
There have been a fair number of blackberries consumed.
We've caught glimpses of the coastline. 
We've had lots of good laughs. And no, this isn't our rental car!
Today, the final day of our walk, our luck ran out. I woke up in the middle of the night and could hear the rain pounding down on the roof, and the wind howling outside the window. These are not sounds you want to hear if you are a walker. The minute by minute weather forecast said the rain should let up around 9:22. We remained optimistic as the sweet gentleman who owned the B&B cooked our breakfast.
It was still pouring as we arrived at the starting point of today's walk. It continued to pour and blow most of the day. So much for the minute by minute forecast and being optimistic! The horrible weather meant very few pictures were taken today, and the few that I did take were on my phone, which was safely tucked in a waterproof case, so they aren't all that great. I have posted a video clip on Instagram that I took today (sorry, but I have no clue how to include it in this post), so if you are on Instagram be sure to have a look. 
Tomorrow we head off to Dingle, then on to the Aran Islands and Galway. Hopefully the foul weather clears!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Better Butter

There are so many things to love about Ireland. The people are incredibly friendly, the scenery is amazing, and there are more things to see and do than we could possibly manage in our short stay here. But there is one thing in particular that stands out, and that's the butter. You might be tempted to think I'm exaggerating, but trust me, I'm not. 
Even before you taste it you know there is going to be something different about it. The colour is a deep, deep yellow instead of the pathetically pale stuff we get in Canada. The real treat is when you spread it over your morning toast (gluten-free in my case), and have your first bite. I love this stuff so much that every morning my ratio of butter to bread keeps increasing. Soon I'll be abandoning the bread completely and eating the butter straight out of the foil packets it comes served in. I would love to hear your thoughts about why the butter is so much better here. I'm guessing it's to do with the grass, but then again dairy cows eat grass in Canada as well, so maybe it's something else. What I do know is I wish I could take home pounds of the stuff as a souvenir.
My final two days with my English friends John and Gill seemed to fly by. We went to Blarney Castle, which turned out to be a surprisingly weird experience. I have to confess to a bit of tourist's ignorance, as I hadn't realized the Blarney Stone was in the castle. I had this vision of it being a rock somewhere in the middle of a field. There were hoards of tourists at the castle thanks to a couple tour buses that had just arrived. It was fun to see that a group of local knitters had done some yarn bombing!

We got in a queue at the bottom of the castle, and it slowly moved its way up the skinny circular stairs leading to the top. When you finally arrive at the top you watch as people are quickly placed on their backs, shoved under the stone (it is on the bottom of an open place in the castle wall, which has iron bars under it to keep you from falling through), and sort of lifted up so you can kiss the stone. All of this happens in a shorter amount of time than it would have taken you to read it. There is an automatic camera set up to record the moments, with the photos available down in the castle gift shop for quite a hefty sum. And no, I didn't kiss the stone. 
Our travels took us by several interesting ancient ruins. 
The scenery continued to be impressive. As we drove along the Ring of Kerry we came to a sign saying there was a short walk to a viewpoint for the most spectacular cliffs along the way. They were right! 
And of course, there have been some sheep. I especially liked this one. She's wearing my shade of blue.
That's all for now. My next update should be from somewhere on our walk along the Kerry Way!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Round Towers and Sinking Ships

Thank you for all of your comments on my last post. There was quite a bit of discussion about the Irish/English breakfast, and I thought I should explain what I meant. The Full Irish breakfast is very similar to the Full English. Really, the only difference between the two is the Irish version includes white pudding. (My apologies for no link. I can't figure out how to link on my iPad.) Typically included are sausages, rashers, eggs, black and white pudding, tomato, mushrooms and toast. Dawn in NL was correct when she said the Irish don't like being confused with the English. That was my mistake. I'll try to remember to take a picture of a Full Irish breakfast and post it next time. Now, on to the last two days. 
We've gone to several sites with round towers. These were built for the protection of the religious communities. If they felt threatened they would go into the tower and close the door. It would have been a good plan until they ran out of food. I don't think they would have had to worry about a water shortage though. Collecting rainwater would have solved that problem, as there seems to be no shortage of that!

The scenery has changed dramatically since my first post. The heather covered hills have been replaced by stunning views of the sea as we wind our way along the southern coast. 
We stopped in Cobh, which went by the name Queenstown at the turn of the last century. It's a colourful little seaside village, and happens to be the final place the Titanic picked up passengers before heading across the Atlantic. We did the Titanic Experience, and it was well worth the admission price. 

This is a replica of a third class passage room. When you go on the tour you are given a "ticket" with the name of a passenger from third class. At the end of the tour there's a display with the names of the third class passengers who boarded in Queenstown, and you check to see if your passenger survived. Not many third class passengers did.

Cobh (Queenstown) is also where some of the passengers from the Lusitania are buried. 
This stone marker was for the Canadian passengers. There were many markers for the victims, some individual, and some for mass graves like this Canadian one. 
Our evening ended on a lighter note. We are staying in a pub in Blarney (no, I'm not kissing the stone!). There was live music last night, so after a wonderful Irish stew we stayed down to listen. It wasn't our first night of enjoying some pub music. A couple nights ago we ate dinner at a pub that had traditional Irish music. It reminded me so much of the music that comes out of Atlantic Canada, especially Newfoundland. Last night's music was different. It was a lone guy on a guitar playing everything from Gordon Lightfoot to Johnny Cash. It was terrific right up until the moment I realized my room was directly above where he was playing! 
Travel Tip #2: If you plan to blog while you are travelling it would be a very good idea to do a trial run with your blogging app before you leave home. I use Blogsy when I'm away and blogging from my iPad. Every other time I have tested it before leaving to make sure it still works and I still remember how to use it. This time I got lazy and figured since I've used it so many times before without a glitch all wMould be well. It's not. So my apologies for any weird formatting, the lack of editing on the photos, and any typos that might appear. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Irish Adventure Begins

I'm happy to say that after an incredibly long flight I have arrived in Ireland. I used my Visa air miles for the flight, and the fees attached to my "free" flight varied greatly amongst the different airlines. Air Canada and British Airways both charged over $400, while West Jet came in under $200, so there was no contest. There were a couple of things about the West Jet flight that made it not quite as appealing though. 
One of them I knew about before I got on the plane, and that was the fact I had two stopovers instead of flying directly to Dublin. The other one turned out to be a nasty surprise. I had assumed that because it was a long haul flight that I would be served a meal. Wrong. The last stop was in St. John's, Newfoundland, and I guess that made the leg across the Atlantic short enough they weren't required to feed us. All that was on offer were some overpriced sandwiches and skimpy cheese trays. I was starved by the time we landed.
My English friends John and Gill picked me up, and after a much appreciated breakfast we started out on our Great Irish Adventure. The first stop was at Powerscourt, where we toured some beautiful gardens. 
My favourite part wasn't the actual garden though. It was the pet cemetery. I thought it was so sweet that this Shetland pony couple were buried together.
Then we drove over the Wicklow mountain pass, which was a huge surprise. When I think of Ireland I picture green fields. But the scenery as we wound our way over the narrow road turned out to be very much like what Kath and encountered several years ago when we were walking in Scotland. I can never get enough of looking at the high hills filled with heather and gorse!
Of course there were sheep sprinkled everywhere over the hills, and even a few on the road.
By the time we arrived at the B&B I was exhausted. I was every bit as happy to crawl into bed as I had been earlier in the day to eat breakfast. More of the adventure to follow!
Travel Tip #1: When in Ireland it's probably a very good idea not to ask for the Full English Breakfast. Just saying...


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Ten Days

I can't believe it's been ten days since my last post. I usually don't let such so many days go by between updates, and now I'm so far behind I don't even know where to start. So my apologies in advance for what might be a very scattered post.

First of all, I wanted to answer the question several of you had about the sweaters Ella and Lucy were wearing in the picture of their meet-up. I did knit Ella's, but can't take credit for Lucy's. I wish I could say I had made it, but to be honest I'm just not sure I am a dedicated enough knitter to put that much work into something that will only fit for such a short amount of time.

Here is what I've been up to while I've been away from the blog.




I've made a teeny tiny dress for Ella.




It might be teeny tiny, but it's huge on Ella!




While I was in visiting Rebekah and Ella we went to Granville Island. The Broom Co. is one of my favourite shops there. It's like visiting a store in Diagon Alley.




I harvested the basil. It was a bumper crop this year, which resulted in a triple batch of pesto. I freeze it in small portions so we are able to enjoy it throughout the winter. There's no comparison between it and the store bought stuff.




We've had visitors. Fortunately for my garden's sake they stayed across the street at the neighbour's house. This picture was not taken with a zoom lens. They actually let me get this close to them!




Alexandra and I took a road trip to Spokane to visit my mom. Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile know how much my mom loves her slot machines. She had a blast showing Alexandra how they worked. Me, well, I stood there watching and trying not to choke on all the cigarette smoke. This casino is on an Indian Reserve near Spokane, and the reserves are about the only places left in the US where indoor smoking is allowed.




There have been hikes up Teapot Hill. Lots of them. I'm trying to get in shape for my upcoming five day walk in Ireland.


Pebbles Vest

Of course there's been knitting. There's always knitting! This is a little vest for Ella. Rebekah and Anton live in a basement suite, and it's a little on the chilly side. I'm hoping this will help keep Ella warm.

That's a sampling of the past week and a half. Wednesday I fly to Ireland for my Big Adventure. I'm not packed, I'm not ready, I'm a nervous wreck (I really, really hate flying), but I'm also very excited. I can't promise a blog post every day while I'm away, but I do hope to drop in here with regular updates, and hopefully at least a few pictures that don't have dark rain clouds in the background.

Have a great weekend!