Lake Como a wonderful place to visit

I am two weeks out from losing my dear dog, Mac.  I am still sad but I am doing better.  So I thought I would start to catch up with the adventures in our trip.

We spent two days in Lake Como.  lake como hill netIt was really lovely and because it is the end of the season there were less people to contend with.  We used the all day ferry pass to visit small towns on both sides of the lake.Lake Como ferry netThe second day we took the hydrofoil ( fast boat) to the city of Como because if you do not it takes two and a half hours by regular ferry.  Como is a lovely small town with a cathedral.como cathedral altar netThe late afternoon brings a light fog over the lake.Lake Como hills netThe last sunset over the lake was stunning.Como sun clouds net

I will be putting up more blogs as we are going home on the Celebrity Reflections across the Atlantic.Lake Como dark sunset net

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Powerscourt Gardens, Ireland

We rented a car!  This greatly expands our choice of adventures during this last week in Greystones.   We no longer need to try to fit into the bus system out here in the country.  So on Sat. we went to the local beach and just walked and took photos of a fun dog who loves to fetch the ball in the water.  dog ball ocean 5x7 net The next day we drove over to Powerscourt country house and gardens.  This is a large  country estate which is noted for its stunning landscaped gardens, which today consists of 47 acres.  This is a photograph of the house.  powerscourt house 5x7 net_edited-1There is an Italian garden that is spectacular. Here is the fountain in the lake.  It is located just behind the back of the house.powerscourt fountain 5x7netHere are the terraced grass areas leading down to the lake.  What a lot of grass to cut. powerscourt lawn netThe Japanese gardens are very picturesque. powerscourt japanese gardens 5x7 netHere is a young couple enjoying the view. young couple 5x7 net But it was flowers everywhere that were the main attraction. white many petals 5x7 netpink flower flames 5x7 netpink peony hybrid 5x7 netfull pink rose 5x7 netWell you can see what a stunning place it is to visit.  If you are ever down this way south from Dublin be sure to add it to your itinerary.

Exploring Belfast, Northern Ireland

We have been in Belfast, Northern Ireland now for a week.  I have to admit I was a little reluctant to come here because of “The Troubles” between the Catholics and the Protestants at the end of the 20th century.   But peace has been place now for almost 20 years and Belfast is flourishing.  They have constructed an excellent tourist exhibit about the Titanic and her sister ships.  The ship was built here in the Belfast shipyards in the beginning of the 1900s.  belfast titanic 5x7 netIt is a modern architectural building that has some excellent exhibits that document this period of human grandiosity and folly, when they believed they had created the unsinkable Titanic. titanic belfast ship drawings netThis is a photograph of the ship’s designers hard at work coming up with a truly remarkable ship.  But they forgot to add enough lifeboats for all the passengers and crew in case the unthinkable happened. There are complete mock ups of the first class cabins with exact replicas of the luxurious furnishing.titanic belfast 1st class room 5x7 net  It was an intense experience.

It was easy and inexpensive (a weekly bus pass was £15 each) to get around the city on the big, pink buses.Belfast pink bus 5x7 netWe took a different bus to Hillsborough Castle which is 20 minutes outside of Belfast.  This is really a large Georgian town house where the queen comes to stay when she visits Belfast.  Hillsborough Castle Ireland netWe had an excellent tour given by this lovely guide, Helen. Hillsborough castle guideShe told us all about the history of the house and how it is still used by the English royal family.Hillsborough castle diningroom netHere is the dining room all set for lunch with china and crystal.  The extensive gardens and grounds are stunning.  Here is a photograph of the garden lake.Hillsborough Castle Lake netIt rains a lot here and there are lovely flowers everywhere.blush rose 5x7 netpurple spike flowers netTomorrow we are off to Greystones, which is a little below Dublin.  We get to take care of 2 wonderful kitty cats and 2 chickens.

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 !