Goodbye Galway

So we bid a sad goodbye to Galway a couple of days ago. galway sunset 5c7 net It is a wonderful city to visit, and we enjoyed our week there very much.  This was our apartment in the student section of the city. Galway our apt 5x7 netWe remember what it was like to be a young university student with all of those stairs.  This is the city where the Claddagh ring was first made. Galway Claddagh 5x5 netDavid bought me one 17 years ago when we first came to Galway, and I am wearing it today.  If the heart on the ring points to your body that means you are taken, if it faces away that means you are available.  claddagh ring netI am definitely taken.

It is a city of trees, rivers and churches.Galway church 5x7 netThis is the Corrib River that runs through the city and where people can fish for salmon.  Most of the oldest parts of the city have been destroyed, but the Spanish arch from  the 16th century that was part of the city walls is still standing.  Galway Spanish arch 5x7 netThe people are very hardy here.  We walked down to the Galway bay promenade which is in a part of the city called Salthill.  There we watched some brave young people jump off the Blackrock Tower into the freezing (well, darn cold) ocean (54 degrees).  salthill flying 5x7 netsalthill girl flying 5x7 net But the young ones are not the only people to brave the cold ocean.  We met Aidan and his dog Ross as he was getting ready to go out and swim in the bay.  He says he does this every day, all year long, and that the water temperature does get as low as 39 degrees.  He was telling us about the group of older people who do the same thing, mentioning another hardy swimmer who had halted his daily swim only a year before his death at the age of 93. I think this is how they live so long.  Adrain and ross net

This visit to Blackrock had been late on Friday afternoon. We returned Sunday about noon, and there was no water whatever below the tower. In fact, there was a pile of jagged, moss-covered rocks. The range of the tide here is typically 12 feet, and as much as 17 feet. We were amazed that there was no monitoring of access to the tower, from which a low-tide jump would be one’s last.

We finished off the visit with a rousing show called TRAD ON THE PROM.  It was a splendid night of Irish music, dancing and song.  If you visit Galway this show should be on your list to see.

Now we are in Belfast for a week…more adventures to come.  Thanks for taking the time to read our adventures.

Adventures to Connemara and Inishmore

We have two weeks between pet sitting assignments here in Ireland, so we are spending one in the Galway area.  We have rented an apartment here near the center of the city of Galway.  The weather has overall been overcast, cold and rainy but with some careful planning we were able to catch two sunny days to tour the lovely area of Connemara and the largest of the Aran islands, Inishmore.

We took a bus tour of Connemara so that David could see the countryside (you don’t get to see much when you’re driving).  We rode the bus looking at the green countryside, the tall hills and the scattered lakes of the part of northwest Ireland.  It was stunningly beautiful.Connemara tree lake 5x7 net The bus driver Mike told us about the landscapes and the history of this part of Ireland.  We stopped for a quick break at the village of Leenane to see the start of the Killary fjord. Leenane village fiord 5x7 netThen we went on to the Kylemore Abbey.  This is a lovely castle that was built on an isolated lake by a merchant named Mitchell Henry for his wife. Kylemore abbey 5x7 net She died just four years later at 45; he was heartbroken and built this Gothic mini church in her memory.Kylemore Abbey church 5x7 net  Around the 1920s, a group of Benedictine nuns who had been bombed out of Ypres, Belgium, in World War I bought the property and made it into a girls school, which they ran until declines in numbers of both teachers and students forced its closure in 2010. Now it is a romantic tourist attraction.

The next day we took a bus to Rossaveal harbor.  While we were waiting for the bus, we had a hot chocolate made correctly with real milk and ground up chocolate at a small French restaurant named Le Petit Pois by a very friendly lady.  Le Petite Pois server netWe hopped on the bus to catch a ferry to the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. inishmore ferry 5x7 net We went to Inishmore,  the largest of the 3 Aran islands, and it is like stepping back in time.  When we got off the ferry we found Tomas ( he is featured in Rick Steves’s 2004 video about the island) and his red van.  There were four couples that he piled into his mini van for a 3-hour tour of the island.   He took us to the end of the island to see the ruins of the seven churches.  There are actually only the remains of two 8 – 13th century churches and a graveyard.  seven churches cross 5x7 net  Then he drove us to the main tourist site, Dun Aonghasa, which is a iron age ring fort at the edge of a 300 foot cliff.  We had 2 hours on our own here at the fort.  Tomas told us that it was a 15 minute walk up to the fort.  Well, it turned out to be a 30 minute hike up hill.

Dun Aonghasa long wayup 5x7 net

See those little people?  See that long trail of gravel and eventually big rocks? 

Here is a photograph of the last bit of the up hill trail.  David says that a little old lady was making it up to the fort , so he would too.Dun Aonghasa final way up 5x7 netWhen we made it through the rock doorway this is what we saw.

Dun Aonghasa walls 5x7 net

The trail to the inside walls.  These people were not taking any chances. This was a triple wall defense.

The walls formed a “C” shape around the cliff edge.  The cliff edge was a sheer drop down about 300 feet to the ocean.  There are no safety rails along the edge if you are stupid enough to slip and fall it is Irish natural selection. Dun Aonghasa cliffs 5x7 net Or tourist natural selection, as you can see here; that is a straight drop to the ocean.Dun Aonghasa tourists edge net

We made it back to the ferry landing with plenty of time to shop and have a drink.  When we got home , we were exhausted but happy.  We were on the Aran Islands and we love Ireland !



Bunratty Castle and folk park: a walk back in time

The most fun excursion that we got up to here in the West country of Ireland was our trip to Bunratty Castle and folk park.  We were there 17 years ago when our son was just 8 years old.  So we had some memories of seeing this big castle through his eyes.  It has changed over time and has gotten much better.  They have added more cottages and houses from the 18th  century to the folk park.  It is a great place to take children to help them understand some of the history of Ireland.

There is the 1425 castle which was restored in the 1950s and opened to the public in the 1960s. bunratty castle 2017 5x7 netThis part of the tour was the same, climbing up many small spiraling staircases that lead off  from each of the four walls of the great hall. There are bedrooms to see. bunratty royal bed 5x7 net  Beautiful stained glass windows to look out on to the river. Bunratty windows 5x7 net  Wonderful 16th century office with a long wood table and colorful ceiling carvings. Bunratty 16th c meeting room 5x7 net  There are even toilets to show you how people in the castle relieved themselves.  Bunratty castle toilet netThat stone seat must have been cold in the winter.

After we toured the castle, we wandered through the folk park which has 30 buildings of farm and fishermen’s cottages from the 18th cottage Bunratty village 5x7 net  Here is a two room thatched cottage that a County Clare farmer might have lived in.    Here is the one bedroom that the farmer and his wife would use. Bunratty farmer's bed 5x7 netEveryone’s fireplace was also their stove and oven as this photograph of a wealthy farmer’s hearth  illustrates.  Most of the cottages were heated with peat blocks.  I was surprised at how warm they keep the room.bunratty fireplace stove 5x7 net They often used the stones that were part of the landscape to build their homes and barns.

bunratty barn 5x7 net

This was a wealthy farmer’s barn made of local stones

It was a fascinating look back in the Irish history of County Clare.

Before we left we decided to eat at Durty Nelly’s, a historical pub that has been serving the local people, or maybe just the tourists, since 1620.  The food was very good.durty Nelly's pub 5x7 net


Today we are finishing up our first house sit, and so we are cleaning house, packing and saying good bye to Cassie, Bella, Pipsie and Midnight.

The Burren in County Clare Ireland

We have been taking a couple of short field trips while pet and house sitting here in western County Clare in Ireland.  Lisdoonvarna is considered the gateway to the Burren.  I had never heard of the Burren before.  It is a special area on the west coast of Ireland that was left without topsoil by the ice ages.   It is a place of stones, and almost no people.burren 5x7 net  There are prehistoric artifacts and tombs throughout the Burren.  We went to a stone ring fort (Catherconnell) that has been settled from the 7th century AD  and was used up to the 15th century.  Here is a model of what it might have looked like in the past.  ring fort model 5x7 netYou can see that there are thick stone walls around the settlement.  These walls were made in the simplest way with local stones just stacked up upon themselves.  burren rock wall 5x7 net  It was fascinating to see how people lived on this land. There are tombs that have been found from the neolithic period (4000-2500 BC). Later,  we drove out to this communal tomb called the Poulnabrone dolmen tomb. Poulnabrone dolmen tomb 5x7 netIt was dark, windy and cold when we walked up the stones to see this ancient monument.  It was quite moving.  It humbled  me to see how transitory our lives and problems are in the scope of the sweep of human time. There are dozens of these tombs around, and many more still buried and waiting to be discovered.

If you get to spend some time on the Burren, you will find it fascinating.

pet & house sitting in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland

We are here on the Western coast of Ireland to spend about 10 day pet and house sitting with 2 lovely dogs;  Cassie and Bella.  And two affectionate kitty cats; Midnight and Pipsiecassie the dog net.bella 5x7 netPipsie 5x7 net_edited-1midnight the cat netWe have been making some short trips in the interesting places near here.  One day we went to Doolin ( a small Irish fishing village) . doolin houses 5x7net  We stopped for lunch at the O’Connor Pub which is know for its excellent Irish music.david at o connors pub netlinda at oconnors 5x7 net  It was a very windy day as you can see from my hair.    Afterwards we drove down to the harbor and saw a small island called the Crab Island.crab island 5x7 net.

After lunch we drove down to the Cliffs of Moher.  We were there 17 years ago and it was a field that you walked out on to look at the famous cliffs.  Now it is an amazing tourist center with a visitor center and shops.  I could not believe how many people were walking around.cliffs of Mohar shops netO'brien Tower 5x7 net  The Cliffs were still stunning. cliffs of Moher 5x7 net  More will come in my next blog entry.

Amsterdam a city of flowers and canals

We finished our cruise in Amsterdam and had 3 days to visit this interesting city in Holland.  The first day we went on an hour cruise of the canals.linda david Amsterdam canal cruise netAmsterdam lovers cruise net Then we went on a tour that took us to see working wind mills, a working cheese factory and a working wooden shoe manufacturer.  Amsterdam windmills netAmsterdam cheese factory net  Here is an old pair of wooden shoes made into ice skates; Amsterdam wooden shoe ice skates net  I almost forgot to add this photo of the wonderful young woman who served us a warm cherry waffle. Amsterdam waffle server net  Needless to say, it was gone very quickly.

The next day we went to the Keukenhof Tulip and flower gardens.  Every year they plant over 7 million flower bulbs and make this place into a wonderland of color and fragrance.  keukenhof landscape 5x7 netkeukenhof pink tulip 5x7 netkeukenhof 3 white tulip 5x7 netKeukenhof orange tulips net  I could have stayed taking photographs for hours; it was heaven.

The last day in Amsterdam was cold and overcast so we went indoors to see Our Lord in the Attic church.  My dear friend Alison recommended that we go see this stunning church that was built in the attics of 3 side by side houses.  Catholics could practice their faith in Amsterdam in the 18th and 19th centuries but they had to do it in a concealed church.  They were tolerated if their place of worship was not seen by people on the street.  This was true of any faith other than the official state church of Holland.

This lovely petite church was an amazing revelation when you entered this house Our lord in the attic house net  Up stairs in the attics you find this beautiful church;Our lord in the Attic church net  It was a fun and whirlwind tour of Amsterdam that we enjoyed very much.

We flew to Cork, Ireland that night and then drove up to Lisdoonvarna on the West coast of Ireland to start our 10 day pet and house sit in this lovely village.   More on that topic to follow in the next blog entry.

Sintra is a lovely city in Portugal

We landed in Lisbon two days ago, our first landfall after 8 days on the sea crossing the Atlantic Ocean.   Lisbon city 5x7 netOur crossing has been very pleasant, mostly sunny but not warm days with only a little rocking.

We had been in Lisbon for 3 days about 3 years ago so we decided to take the train to Sintra.   We decided to get there ourselves with 3 other couples from the ship.celebrity group 5x7 net We took the Metro to the train station (€1.45 cost) and then the train to Sintra (€3.80 round trip with senior discount) then walked to the 343  bus to go up to the Pena Palace (€5.50 for the loop). Lisbon metro 5x7 copy When we got there we purchased a ticket to the palace and another ticket for the tram up the steep hill to the entrance (€31 total). Pena Palace 5x7 net This journey took 2.5 hours.

Sintra was the summer home for the Portuguese royal family.  This is were the Pena Palace is located on the top of hill overlooking the town.  Pena palace 1 netThe palace was a renovation of the old monastery that was on the top of the hill.   King consort Ferdinand II decided to build it for a summer palace for the royal family.  It was completed in 1854.  In 1889 it was purchased by the state and turned into a museum. It is a very ornate design called Romanesque Revival.  As you can see from the photographs there were many arches and tiled walls.Pena Palace clock tower 5x7 net

Pena Palace David lunch net

The always-popular ham and cheese sandwich lunch.

David and I brought our lunch to save time.

We left Lisbon as the sun was setting over the long suspension 25 of April bridge.  25th of April bridge 5x7 net  We left to sail to Le Havre France.